Accessories Capture Major Attention in Huge Bridal Market
By Mary McGarry
Never before has the American Bride had so many choices open to her as she begins the exciting journey toward her wedding day. Whatever her taste, whatever her financial resources, wherever she may live, and wherever she wants her wedding to take place, there are wonderful and multiple choices open to her. A casual wedding. A formal wedding. A major, costly extravagance. A budget-savvy small affair. All can be elegant, beautiful, and timelessly memorable. There are no stops to this market, only vibrant and even dramatic go-aheads in every direction. For the bride, this is The Hour. For accessory retailers, it is no less special!
A NEW WORLD: According to the Conde Nast American Wedding Study 2006, a whooping $75 billion is spent overall on wedding expenses each year, with jewelry representing $14 billion of the total. This is an incredibly big market, strong, demanding, and centering on a totally different kind of 21st Century bride willing to spend a huge amount of money to get exactly what she wants.
In the past, a major part of the money spent went for the wedding dress. Now, a shift has taken place and, while the dress is still of prime importance, a large percentage of the overall wedding budget is allotted to accessories. Jewelry and accessories now represent a significantly larger portion of the total than ever before.
Today's brides are also older. The average age is 27, and 78 percent of them work full time. 91 percent have attended college. Now ... that has to be taken somewhat loosely, since a single course in any subject would qualify a prospective bride as a college attendee. We're not just talking college graduates. Still, that college attendance number is impressive, and suggests a high level of intelligence and savoir faire among today's brides.
Whereas yesterday's bride was mostly a young girl whose mother made many of her decisions (and whose father "gave her away" at the altar to another man, the groom, who would take over her "care"), today's bride is a woman with higher education credentials, years in the work force, a comfortable sense of independence and often live-in experience with the man she is now marrying. That's a very new story!
A MATERIAL BONANZA: Consider these facts when you plan out your bridal package, because if you are still thinking in traditional yesteryear terms, you're in big trouble! New and different products appeal to today's bride. She makes more sophisticated choices and is more discriminating in her purchases. Happily, for those marketing in the field, she spends more money on everything. Much, much more money! And that expenditure doesn't phase her one bit.
So ... where is all this money going? To start with, it is important to understand that the bridal market consists of much more than just the bride. There are bridesmaids, flower girls, and mothers-of-the-bride/groom for starters. All need special outfits for the big day. And all of these outfits demand special accessorizing. Because many brides want to continue the style of their rings throughout the entire bridal ensemble, it is a good idea to consider what ring styles are leading in sales now.
Gold is red hot, as always. But platinum is again popular. It is more expensive than other metals, but that could be an added status plus in today's super extravagant bridal world. So definitely think not just of gold, but also of white metal for bridal jewelry collections for both the wedding day and the honeymoon! A significant merchandising point is that the bridal couple will often make their purchasing plans a year or more in advance, so you have to think in terms of directionals -- that is, not just where the market is now but also where the market is headed -- if you are going to be on target for the couple's big day.
If this sounds complicated, it is. In fact, so is most of the bridal market. A white gown and pretty pearls alone just don't do it any more. The bridal dress alone, which will determine much of the overall wedding style, is a major marketing product.
THE BRIDAL ENSEMBLE: Ann Taylor offers a stunning long white lace strapless fitted sheath impeccably tailored and shown with a medium size choker of rich-girl white pearls. In this designer's scenario, the wedding party is further dressed in pale blue strapless just-below-the-knee dresses, while two little flower girls are dressed in the same pale blue, this time in unadorned sleeveless dresses with gathered skirts. Floral wreaths adorn their hair. The groom matches up everything in his black tails, white shirt, and pale blue tie. The total effect is elegant.
For major formal effect, no one beats the dresses from Amalia Carrara. One of her outstanding designs this year is a pale pink satin strapless dress with a full ruffled skirt pulled up and back at the sides to reveal a spectacular, same-material underskirt embroidered gloriously and studded with pearls. The skirt falls gracefully into an elaborate back design with medium length trail. At the neck, the model-bride wears a same-color large pink silk flower choker with netted tie.
Strapless dresses lead the way in style in practically all bridal stories. Flowers are very big. Satin sashes are everywhere, often in a contrasting color such as black or medium blue to gorgeously offset the white bridal dress. Sashes and defined waistlines are just two major trends now.
THE CROWN JEWELS: Jewelry is worn everywhere. On the sash. On the bodice of the dress. As necklaces. As bracelets. In the hair. On the bridal bouquet. Think of an elegant new way to wear even more jewelry, and you're sure to have a winner. Long, thinny-thin lines are popular for the dress and for many pieces of jewelry. Elegant slivers of belts in crystal with bejeweled clasps give many Bridal dresses a particularly 2008 look. White pearl studded hoop earrings are an unusual but important bridal look. Long ball drop earrings are also seen frequently. For a bohemian touch, some top bridal designers are showing long multi-strand pearl necklaces.
Color comes forward as a very important, yet subtly done factor in the bridal market this year. Basically, there are three major colors in the field: white, of course, along with yellow and pink. A pale blue also makes the big time, but is usually used for bridesmaids' dresses. A two tone look is also growing. Think in terms of a white bridal dress with black sash or yellow inserts. Of course, color can be almost anywhere on the bridal palette. In place of the classic white, major houses are showing deep red, black, orange, tan, blue, green -- you name it. These colors represent a small fraction of the total bridal dress market, but they are still significant.
From Jordan Bridal, for example, comes an entire bridal collection in young spring green with pink sashes and yellow floral waist accessories. Bill Levkoff"s deep purple-black ruffled dress with tan satin sash waist is a good example of this look. And Jade by Jasmine works with intense color, presenting a phenomenal red bridal dress with almost Russian-Romanoff lines. It is elegant!
SHOWING OFF: Runways now show off new bridal collections in a manner not unlike that used for international couture. And just like high fashion, there are trends that change with the season. Here are some of the stories making bridal news now:
- Art Deco is an important bridal design movement now, giving a Hollywood glamour boost to many outfits. Look for halter gowns and beaded waists, plenty of sparkle with crystals and gathering, crystal headbands that mimic marcasite, only with a punch. Offbeat artsy dresses are at their best here, again with a touch of sexy yesteryear pizzazz. Designs run from strapless to Greek goddess to Miss Prim styles with full sleeves and embroidered, beaded bodices. Think of column dresses and ball gowns.
- Floral Designs are also big on the bridal circuit. Look for plenty of posies designed into bridal fabrics (almost always of the same material and color), Also look for embroidered and floral designs with traditional crystal and pearl embellishments. Beautiful, beaded clutch bags in floral designs such as one from Franchi, maintain the story. The floral story is a natural for pink-colored dresses, with silk (or real) flowers adorning the dress, and the hair. Botanically styled earrings such as one pair from Tigerlilly go well here. Also fitting the floral mood are leaf designs on the dress and in jewelry. Tigerlilly also has an enchanting leaf and crystal tiara in pale green and pink with crystal embellishments. Mermaid embellishments dresses add a bit of fantasy to the floral story, along with princess styles.
- Simply Modern is a wonderfully classic, up to the minute style, not always so simple! Look for plenty of strapless dresses, long fitted silhouettes, fuller skirts with simple satin beaded insets. See Amsale's grand taffeta ball gown. Dresses here run from minimalist supreme to fuller, more detailed dresses, such as a faille shirtdress from Vineyard, with high neck and big bow sash. Pave crystal necklaces and bracelets adorn this look wonderfully. Also look for very simple, clean-line clutch handbags and long sliver earrings. Slip dresses and A-lines work well here.
Necklaces are perhaps the most important jewelry after the engagement and wedding rings. Chokers are big, with delicate drops in crystal. Pearls are always important. This year white traditional pearls lead the pack, followed by many lovely sizes of Tahitian black pearls.
THE PACKAGE: Almost as important as the jewelry product is the way the jewelry is packaged. Brides want the pieces they are going to wear on their wedding day to look beautiful when shown to others both before and after the ceremony, and they want the packaging to act as a home base for the jewelry for many years to come. Most manufacturers emphasize satin or velvet boxes, many with their name and/or the name of the wedding collection included on them. Putting your name on the package is an important marketing tool because the bride's friends and relatives will often see this jewelry while it is in the box, and you want them to know who you are and turn to you when they, in turn, are looking to buy bridal products. In most instances, the packaging is classic, rich, imposing.
HAIR EXTRAVAGANZAS: But jewelry is not the only story in this big bridal market. Hair accessories are big and getting bigger. Yes ... do think about tiaras of all sorts, from sleek and modern to the most ornate, Queenly-variety. These are gem encrusted; usually white metal pieces, mostly clear but also in single or even multi color. Here and there a simple, very modern and sleek tiara design emerges, just as beautiful as the most classic.
Also consider big creations of netting -- not a veil here, but a hair accessory! Watters Brides uses white hair netting in an especially effective way in many of their ads. Farage Bride does the same for highly creative (and huge) black net creations.
Flowers are a hot hair accessory now, both as single silk posies to headbands of flowers. Crystals added to the flowers (and the netting and practically everything else used in the hair) give the final accessory an added glitz and glamour dimension.
We could go on and on about hair accessories on the bridal trail. DaVinci, for example, wraps long white satin cords around and around high chignons on model brides. And Jordan Bridal ties pink cording around long ponytails for a more casual take on wedding day hairdos.
HANDBAGS: Bridal handbags are getting bigger. No longer tiny little purses, these new bags are surfacing on the bridal scene with all the power of handbags in the fashion market in general. Beaded and gem encrusted bags are still popular for brides, but so too are simple, medium sized clutches of all sorts. Medium white handbags are also being used. A not unusual appearance this season is the beaded white handle bag; see Mary's Bridal for good examples.
And, the story goes on. The bridal market is wide and getting wider everyday. Rising powerfully on the market is the honeymoon. Consider accessories for this important time period, because most brides want an entirely new wardrobe to take with them for an ensuing week or month. No bridal package is complete without special offerings here.
GIFTS AND MORE GIFTS: Gifts also play a vital part in the market. Gifts for the engagement. Gifts at showers. Gifts given between the bridal couple. Gifts to all the members of the bridal party. No bridal package is complete without these pieces, as well.
These are all potential money makers for accessories. Package them beautifully and they'll sell just that well. The bridal market is large, steady, and almost recession-proof. No bride will willingly cut back on wedding expenses just because the stock market is down. So ... prepare the best you have for the bride and know your market will be there with strength and enthusiasm in almost all economic climates.
The keen insights of the above in-depth report on bridal trends for 2008 by Mary McGarry make bridal shops aware of the variety needed to satisfy the modern bride. Focus on areas that can make your business the "go-to place" with variety in these key wholesale bridal jewelry and accessories categories.
Wholesale Evening Bags
Most communities are woefully short in a selection of evening bags so wholesale evening bags can be key to drawing customers not only for bridal bags, but also a variety of colors for bridesmaid bags. Recently bridesmaid bags have become a popular gift. You can be the shop brides count on and best of all; you can keep brides on budget with a very affordable price.
Wholesale tiaras are a must for bridal shops with the mushrooming popularity these hair accessories are receiving. Again a nice selection is often lacking and with today's brides wanting everything perfect, options are important. So wholesale tiaras provide another way to attract customers with choices of styles, plating, and materials, which can be rhinestone, crystals, or faux pearls.
Wholesale Bridal Gloves
Perhaps nothing sets a shop in bridal accessories apart from its competition more than a nice selection of wholesale bridal gloves. The reason is most shops don't want the expense of so many lengths, colors, and styles. Well it is more affordable than you realize. You can have an unbeatable selection for under $300. Satin and matte gloves come in four lengths and more than a dozen colors. Divide the colors between the four lengths so you can show the colors even if it isn't in the length wanted. When the customer makes a selection, order the quantity needed fro the wholesaler. Your bridal glove selection separates you from all the competition.
Wholesale Bridal Jewelry
Faux pearl is the affordable bridal jewelry that oozes with elegance. Necklace sets provide extensive designs that please conservative tastes as well as more lavish looks preferred by many modern brides. Bracelets are also important and freshwater pearls provide another option with affordable jewelry created by nature.
Wholesale Rhinestone Jewelry
Today's bridal market sees more than half the brides opting for rhinestone necklace sets as the wedding day jewelry. A choice of silver or gold plating satisfies both tastes and styles are extensive ranging from delicate to sets that make a statement. Rhinestone bracelets are also an important wedding accessory as well as a popular bridesmaid gift.
Wholesale Freshwater Pearl
Wholesale freshwater pearl jewelry adds a sophisticated dimension to your bridal accessories with the elegance produced by nature. Off-white is most popular, but dyed freshwater pearls can provide colors to match bridesmaid dresses. Also bracelets are becoming a favorite bridesmaid gift and what could be more elegant than a freshwater pearl bracelet.
As Mary McGarry pointed out, bridal gift giving may have reached a dimension never before seen and by the time it comes to picking these gifts the bride may have exhausted all her creative thinking. Nicely packaged pewter writing pens with sculptured designs makes a very original gift and you can save the bride one more headache by stocking this elegant gift. Numerous themes provide something for all kinds of personalities and each one comes in a velvet box with satin lining.
Bridal shops with a variety of options have a big advantage in today's market because brides want this special day perfect, which means there are lots of tastes to satisfy.