Not long now! As we head to Harrogate for Bridal Week this weekend, we have drawn from our extensive experience and a few people we trust to create our top tips for making the most of the biggest UK bridal trade event of the year… Bridal Week Harrogate
As with anything else, it pays to prepare for any buying event – that is, fix your budget, create a list of people you want to see, plan your outfits (complete with comfortable shoes, and lozenges to combat the dreaded Harrogate throat) and book your favourite restaurants if you have them. So…
Figure out the designers you want to see the most – both existing labels and ones you have heard about and would like to see. It doesn't matter if you are at capacity with your labels, it's really important to see the new talent as it emerges, because you never know what's going to happen. Plus, it's really good to support newcomers to the industry. Good for Bridal Week, good for them and good for you to see what else is out there.
Do your homework
Look through every detail on the Bridal Week website. Check out who's exhibiting, who's showing on the catwalk, who is hosting seminars and workshops, and who is hosting events in the evening. Do not go unprepared or you will be overwhelmed and potentially disappointed.
Know what you need, and know how much you have to spend and above all, stick to it! Be completely aware of the margins and price points of your current labels to compare against any potential new ones.
Or at least be in touch with the people you need to see and let them know that you will be at their stand to see them. If a label is new to you, see if you can find out who will be there and who you might meet.
Know what you’re looking for
List out the gowns you know will do well - don't just wing it because that doesn't work. Have a look at trends and what real brides are wearing, and make sure you know exactly what percentage of your brides wore each of your labels.
Looking great! Team Adella visit Bridal Week in Harrogate
Be social in person
While you're not there to schmooze necessarily, it really helps to have like-minded boutiques as your industry friends... Even boutiques local to you - you know what they say about keeping your enemies closer! Arrange meet-ups with boutiques you like on social media, smile and be friendly on your designers' stands. Be a positive, supportive influence, even if you don't feel like it! And accept every invitation!
Be social on social media
Follow hashtags and use hashtags, and do keep posting - you will be surprised how many of your fellow professionals will follow the hashtags #bridalweek #bridalweekharrogate and #homeofbridal and brides who follow #weddingdresstrends #weddingdressinspiration and #weddingdressideas Have a photo with the designers at the stands you visit and tag them in... You know the score!
Make sure you follow each stand visit and meeting with an email or at least a DM to say how nice it was to meet them and when they can expect to hear from you next, if you have plans to progress with the relationship. Be the person who makes the brand's job easier – be known as a friendly, accommodating and easy person to work with. (This is not the same as a pushover – you can be warm, friendly AND professional, all at once!)
Here's what some of our industry friends have to say:
Dando London – Stand Q2 – www.dandolondon.com
"We would advise stores to pre-plan their Harrogate visit to maximise their time and ensure they don't miss anything. At Dando London, we offer a range of exceptional, industry-leading, stockist benefits, that ensure stores will be successful with the brand. Building a strong working partnership is key, knowing your suppliers are there to support you every single day is crucial. Dando London also provides stores with captivating images and photography that is specifically designed to stop the scroll on social media, gain brides' interest, and importantly secure those all-important bride appointments. Ensure you know the benefits of every brand you would like to work with, it’s wise to do your research before placing any orders.
Another important point, don't miss the fashion show catwalk in the main theatre! Full of drama and excitement, it’s a highlight of the Harrogate show! There are also some very helpful seminars and training clinics on offer at the show, if you can make time for these it’s always good to brush up on your sales and marketing skills or just have a little refresher.
Harrogate Bridal Week also offers a great opportunity to generate endless content for your social channels. There are so many creative stands and Instagram-worthy displays, it’s a great way to show behind-the-scenes content that your potential brides find fascinating!
And finally, enjoy yourself! Harrogate is a beautiful town with lots of amazing restaurants and shops. Bridal stores work incredibly hard all year and it’s important to be able to let your hair down, relax and enjoy some fun with your fellow industry friends!"
Wendy Makin – Stand Q31 – www.wendymakin.com
"Research! Take the strain off your feet and avoid 'ivory blindness' by researching those designers that have what you need and complement your aesthetic and also sit well alongside your current designers. And then make appointments to see those collections – one-to-one is best because it gives you the opportunity to discuss what benefits that designer can offer you to make the most of your investment into their collections. A one-to-one appointment also allows you to look at and feel in detail the construction and quality of the dresses."
Eliza Jane Howell – Stand B38 – www.elizajanehowell.com
"We would say make the most of your time there by combining business with pleasure and we would highly recommend a trip to Betty’s Tea Rooms. The seminars held at the show are very useful for buyers and can be beneficial for keeping up to date with what’s happening in the industry. When it comes to buying, we think that it is important to buy something different, that stands out from the crowd so you can offer your brides something unique and special. There are some fantastic British bridal designers and it is great to be supporting British brands within the industry."
Romantica – The Crown Hotel – www.romanticaofdevon.co.uk
"Make sure you have a plan! Two or three days may seem like a long time, however, if you would like to get the most out of your experience you will need to visit existing suppliers, check out any new brands that have caught your attention, view the main catwalk shows, attend seminars and network with your industry peers to name but a few things! As long as you know what is available when and try to structure your day around the shows you simply cannot miss and the seminars you feel you and your business will get the most out of then you should be fine, but be sure to do this before you get to Harrogate to avoid missing out! Both Romantica and Sophia Tolli (along with all of our other gorgeous Romantica and Mon Cheri collections) will be on our own runway at The Crown Hotel, Harrogate."
Rachel Allan – Stand B15/26 – www.rachelallan.com
"Analyse your business before you come to the show. What is working for you in-store in terms of brands, silhouettes and fabrics? Understand what your customer is so you buy for the consumer.
Be open and aware to finding out about new opportunities and brands. A new brand could open up your store to a different type of customer and add revenue and value to your business.
Plan your day, who do I want to see and where are they located? This will bring a sense of calm and organisation to your buying experience.
Find out about additional support your suppliers can give to you. What else are suppliers offering to complement your business and does this fit alongside what you already offer or give you a competitive edge? Ask about customisations, size range and surcharges, loans and designer weekends, stock for immediate deliveries and payment plans.
However, you decide to do it, enjoy your time at the show. I think we can now all understand and appreciate the importance of an industry coming together to celebrate our professional and personal relationships.