Beginner’s Guide on Starting a Bridal Shop Business in the United Kingdom
Weddings have always been big business as it promotes a celebratory event that brings huge numbers of people together. Most weddings are ceremonial and necessitate special outfits, gifts, etc. – popular enough to create its very own industry. There’s no denying that currently, there is more supply than demand, leading to market saturation. However, it is still quite feasible to turn a profit by starting a bridal shop business in the UK.
As far as market segmentation goes, industry influence includes the usual external factors, such as disposable income, etc. However, the most significant factor remains whether weddings are still in vogue, and the trend here is shifting. Most bridal shop businesses traditionally focus on lavish church weddings with all the accompaniment trappings. The steady decline of such types of events has had an impact on the industry.
The market is quite select, and competition has also been rearing its many innovative heads. Departmental stores now offer a bridal range, and sourcing affordable, designer bridal wear online is easy. There’s also plenty of over-runs, end-of-line designs, samples, and even pre-loved or vintage items at discount prices.
Rather than sounding a death knell, these challenges provide a unique opportunity for budding bridal shop entrepreneurs. As with any business, success hinges on hard work, innovative strategies, and leveraging on available technology. Weddings will never completely go out of fashion; hence the need for bridal shops will remain. In this guide, we’ll explore all you really need to know to get started in this exciting business.
What is a Bridal Shop Business?
As its name implies, a bridal shop business deals with the A to Z of wedding-related events. Some shops make outright off-the-rack sales, while others rent outfits or specialize in bespoke creations. Generally, a bridal shop will handle:
- Bridal and bridesmaids’ outfits
- Wedding party outfits
- Accessories, jewelry, etc.
- Alterations, fittings, etc.
Most bridal stores also operate as a one-stop shop, offering gowns, veils, shoes, etc. Some offer bridal make-up and hair services as well as themed wedding photoshoots and exclusive portraits. Almost all physical shops also offer in-store tailoring and fitting services for outfits that they carry.
Some bridal businesses offer bespoke or one-off designs exclusively created for the bridal party. Here, the business acts as a platform for talented designers to test and launch their own brand.
Guidelines on Starting a Bridal Shop Business in the United Kingdom
Before you take the plunge, it is crucial that you carry out some essential due diligence. Research your target market, location viability, and competition – do try and establish market gaps that may exist. These will stand you in good stead when you write up your business plan and do a financial forecast. It might also throw up a possible niching opportunity or collaborative prospect with other service providers.
A well-written business plan will enable you to decide how you prefer to structure your business. Home-based or online may be a good option if you want to start out small and test the market. If you’re more confident and have deeper pockets, buying an existing business or a franchise might be viable. The next step is to decide on your business entity, which can be any of the following:
- Sole proprietorship or freelancer
- Limited company
- Limited liability partnership (LLP)
Each of these entities has its pros and cons – doing some early research can save you from costly mistakes. Basically, a sole proprietorship or partnership is fast and easy to establish and low on costs. A limited company or LLP requires incorporation and has a few extra steps towards registration. However, incorporation does offer more protection for its owners and shareholders than being a sole trader or partner only.
If you want to incorporate your company, you’ll need to submit the relevant documents to Companies House. You’ll also need to register with HMRC for tax and VAT, open a bank account and get business insurance. If you’d like to know more, check out 3E Accounting’s comprehensive guide on company registration in the UK.
Requirements for Starting a Bridal Shop Business in the United Kingdom
Cost is always a factor in any start-up, and starting a bridal shop business may run into some expense. Physical stores should ideally have large window displays that can showcase stunning bridal creations. Other essential requirements include a good selection of outfits in various sizes and designs. If you’re online, you’ll want plenty of professionally staged pictures, preferably with designer outfits.
Physical stores will also need retail space fitted with changing rooms, mirrors, and well-lit interiors. You’re also looking at racks for clothing display and storage space, display counters, mannequins, etc. If you don’t want to carry too much inventory, have an arrangement with your local suppliers or wholesalers. This way, you will have access to the latest trends and more variety, all on a consignment basis.
Investing in proper customer management software will make the retail part of the business run a lot smoother. Good bookkeeping practices and software, for example, will take care of all your accounting needs from the get-go. Fitting clients out for their outfits is a given, so consider having an in-store seamstress for alterations. Alternatively, the source for a local network of freelance or home-based dressmakers you can rely on.
There is no formal qualification required to be a bridal store entrepreneur, but having industry experience does help. What does carry weight is skills, talent, experience, and expertise. Having well-trained and polite shop assistants is also crucial as most clients tend to be stressed or fussy. With an eye for design and fashion trends and excellent customer skills, you’re off to a promising start.
Approvals for a Bridal Shop Business in the United Kingdom
As a bridal shop retailing bridal wear, your business will not need any specific approvals. However, do be aware of ancillary trade and other activities that may require licensing and permits. For example, you’ll need a Music license if you stream content or background music in your place of business. Displaying a signboard or any business-related items on the sidewalk will require approvals from the local area authorities.
If you’re ‘poshing-up’ your bridal store by providing alcoholic beverages, you’ll need licenses to serve and sell alcohol. Offering in-store finance or credit terms definitely needs authorization from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If you’re handling clients’ personal data, UK data protection laws require registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Further, if you sell second-hand goods or outfits, you’ll need a license if this is your primary business activity.
A smart strategy is to engage professional help to ensure that your business stays compliant. As a UK corporate service provider, 3E Accounting can assist your company in getting all necessary approvals. This can include considerations that are not readily apparent such as:
- Knowing your legal obligations, especially for e-commerce and retail activities.
- Protecting your designs by registering with the Intellectual Property Office.
- Drafting agreements, such as employment contracts or hire contracts if you plan to offer outfits for rent.
Tips for Growing Your Bridal Shop Business
Getting a better handle on your business and industry trends is a great way to grow your trade. First-hand work experience at other bridal shops or boutiques is an excellent place to start. You should also familiarise yourself with the creative process behind the business and expand your knowledge. One way to do this is to attend bridal events and shows and subscribe to bridal magazines.
One opportunity for niching that presents itself in a multicultural place like the UK is to diversify. As more people prefer less traditional or formal weddings, consider offering a varied range of outfits. Stock selections that reflect more cultural diversity, modern or trending matrimonial concepts, and even themed outfits. White wedding gowns can be displayed with equal aplomb as colorful sarees and even beach-styled sarongs.
Focus on building up a solid reputation for reliable service and excellent customer engagement. Go the extra mile by tying up with local florists or beauty salons to offer more comprehensive service packages. Clients deserve an opportunity to appreciate the experience as much as the products. These are crucial factors that will tip the scales of success in your favor and garner strong referrals.
In this guide, we took a glance at the fundamentals of starting a bridal shop business in the UK. Our exploratory narrative includes the industry itself as well as approvals and strategies to build up a successful business. If you require more information or assistance starting up, contact 3E Accounting for an informative chat.
Running any business successfully requires planning, research, sound strategies, and timely collaboration. 3E Accounting United Kingdom provides the right partnership with comprehensive and customizable solutions for all your business needs. Our UK company incorporation services enable you to focus on your business while we take care of the details. Get in touch with us today to make your business dreams a reality.