Kleinfeld Owner Says the On-Demand Economy Catches Up to Weddings

wedding dress in box

With consumers increasingly expecting to be able to get anything they want, when they want it, bridal retail is picking up the pace, according to Kleinfeld Bridal, the wedding retailer from TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.”

In an interview with PYMNTS, Co-owner Ronnie Rothstein and Consulting Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Shipe described how consumers’ on-demand expectations are transforming the industry.

For instance, more than ever, brides want of-the-moment dresses that reflect quickly changing trends, as opposed to more timeless styles.

“It’s much more fashion-oriented today in bridal than it was 15 or 20 years ago, and the fashions change more,” Rothstein said. “The fabrics can modify, the embellishments on the fabrics [and] whatever. So, [all the retailers are] trying to speed it up and not get stuck with inventory.”

Moreover, he noted, many consumers want a dress ready in less time than in the past.

“We’re seeing those planning timelines shorten. Gone are the days of, ‘I’m gonna plan two years ahead.’ We’re seeing much, much shorter timelines from when she’s engaged to when she wants to be married,” Shipe said.

Rothstein added that the retailer’s recent launch of Kleinfeld Again, an online marketplace for pre-owned dresses, enables the retailer to offer ready-to-go garments.

Additionally, Shipe noted that, for new dresses, the company has been working with designers and alternations specialists to provide express services to meet this growing demand for short-notice dresses.

Taking a Tip From the Auto Industry

Rothstein and Shipe argued that the launch of the pre-owned marketplace will not cannibalize the retailer’s more premium new dress business, because it serves a different audience or a different use case.

To illustrate this point, Rothstein highlighted the example of the automotive industry.

“There are two separate customers. There’s a customer who goes into a car dealer and leases a new car or purchases a new car. [Then] there’s a customer … who doesn’t necessarily even look at the new car but [studies] the certified pre-owned cars,” Rothstein said.

He added that, while some consumers make a big deal out of dress shopping, bringing along loved ones, toasting with champagne, and celebrating the occasion, there is another type of bride who “sits at home” browsing the web and “looking for a deal.”

Building on the automotive analogy, Shipe cited the example of someone who might drive a pre-owned car for when they are driving around by themself but may buy a new car for family occasions. She argued that, similarly, brides may want multiple dresses. While a bride might buy one dress that is a major splurge for the main event, that bride may seek more affordable options for other wedding occasions.

“We hear that a lot from our teams and from the brides … the trend of multiple dresses for occasions around the wedding for the reception versus the ceremony,” Shipe said. A bride may “want to get luxury at a great rate and a great price for maybe the second dress, or the third dress.”

Overall, consumers — especially the millennials who make up much of today’s bridal-shopping population — are turning to secondhand retail channels more. Supplemental research from PYMNTS Intelligence’s study “Consumer Inflation Sentiment: Persistent Inflation Rekindles Consumer’s Interest in Secondhand Stores” found that, last year,  52% of millennials increased their resale shopping.

Be Our Guest

Shipe argued that, rather than operating purely in the retail space, bridal shops straddle retail and hospitality, with the industry requiring an in-depth knowledge of the customer and the ability to make them feel tended to and supported.

Rothstein attributes Kleinfeld’s ethos of hospitality to his own upbringing, with his father having built and owned the Eden Roc hotel in Miami Beach in the 1950s — a five-star establishment in which both Rothstein’s father and his father’s business partner “never knew the word no” when it came to serving the customer.

“I grew up in an environment where the limousines were sent to Miami International Airport to pick up the customer. They were brought into the hotel as they walked up the steps,” Rothstein said. “‘Welcome, Mr. And Mrs. Kelly, to the Eden Roc,’ and that’s what we do at Kleinfeld.”

He said the bridal retailer aims to build a personal connection with customers at every step of the purchasing journey.

The move to give customers the celebrity treatment comes as bridal retail increasingly intersect with the actual celebrity world, as Shipe noted, with the retailer’s designers called upon more and more to outfit stars for red-carpet events as bridal and couture “have gotten closer and closer.”

Speaking of celebrities, Rothstein noted that, with hospitality being a two-way street, he learned a lot about service from seeing how stars treated the staff at his father’s hotel.

“Frank Sinatra … was unbelievable to the staff at the hotel. He, Joey Lewis, Nat King Cole, Dina Shore, Barbara Streisand — there are certain people that treated the staff so well. Harry Belafonte treated the staff great. Paul Anka and Bobby Vinton maybe were the best to everybody. They took pictures with everybody. But it’s true that you learned who these people were by how they treated the staff.”

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