The Montreal-based retailer has launched The Wedding Boutique, an online shop with affordable wedding gowns (starting at $99.95), bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes, accessories and tuxedos. The collection is also available in select stores including Yorkdale, Eaton Centre and Sherway Gardens in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as a newly renovated location in Montreal’s Fairview Pointe Claire.
“Le Château has been well known as a purveyor of beautiful dresses, gowns and suits for years, so it was a natural progression for us to enhance our offering and create an all-in-one online wedding boutique,” said Marlene Robillard, director of communications and public relations at Le Château. “Weddings are a huge business… and there’s obviously a large market of sales to tap into there.”
With lots of wedding-related purchases to be made, it’s not just wedding bells that will be ringing. According to a 2015 reader survey by St. Joseph Communications’ Weddingbells and Mariage Quebec magazines, the expected cost of an average Canadian wedding is $30,717, including the honeymoon. The venue and catering take up the biggest portion of the budget, but the apparel costs add up. The expected cost of a bridal gown is $1,779. Also on the list: bridal shoes ($156), bridesmaids’ dresses ($350), bridesmaids’ shoes ($241), and jewellery $312.
“All brides are different when it comes to their dresses,” said Alison McGill, editor-in-chief of Weddingbells magazine. “Some want that dream dress and they want to spend the big bucks on it and others still want the dream dress, but they’re willing to sacrifice on the prices. With dress shopping, there are lots of options available. You can go high end or you can get something more affordable, where I think 10 years ago it was not such a diverse marketplace.”
Indeed, Le Château and Hudson’s Bay aren’t the only mainstream retailers walking down the aisle. In recent years, U.S. retailers J. Crew, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market and even Costco have expanded into the bridal market. And this month, clothing brand Free People launched its first bridal collection, FPEverAfter, which will be sold online on FreePeople.com and FreePeople.co.uk.
Maureen Atkinson, senior partner at J.C. Williams Group, a Toronto-based retail consultancy, thinks it makes “tons of sense” for a department store like Hudson’s Bay to expand into wedding apparel, since it’s already in the business of gift registries. “But I also think it makes sense for the dress retailers as well,” she said. “Le Château has a pretty substantial business in party dresses so it’s [a good] way to encourage business.”
When it comes to marketing to today’s brides-to-be, online is the way to go. According the Weddingbells survey, brides spend an average of 4.4 hours per week online reading wedding-related material and 61% said they log into their social media accounts more since becoming engaged. In addition, 83% agreed that social media plays an important role in wedding planning; and 80% of brides said they will use Pinterest to help plan their weddings.
“[Social media] has completely changed wedding planning,” said McGill. “It’s basically where people get their ideas, where they find vendors and it’s where they spend their time.”
To promote The Wedding Boutique, Le Château is focusing on targeted Facebook ads and its social media platforms. It’s also launching a blog, Style Down the Aisle, in the coming weeks.
Jessica Mulroney, public relations and marketing specialist for Kleinfeld Bridal at Hudson’s Bay, said over the past year the company has been working on building the brand in Canada with a multi-faceted marketing strategy that includes traditional, social and paid media.
“That said, social media is an essential tool to keep brides-to-be on top of all our latest trends, whether it be bridal fashion, bridesmaids fashion, invitations, bridal gifting and bridal registry,” said Mulroney.
HERE COMES THE TOILET PAPER
The wedding market is so hot, even a toilet paper brand is getting in on the action.
Kruger-owned brand Cashmere is featuring “wedding couture” at its 12th annual White Cashmere Collection, a runway show featuring dresses made entirely out of bathroom tissue.
Sixteen of Canada’s top bridal fashion designers will have their couture creations go down the runway on September 29 in Toronto. The event, which was developed by Strategic Objectives, raises money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
This year, Cashmere partnered with Jessica Mulroney, public relations and marketing specialist for Kleinfeld Bridal at Hudson’s Bay, to curate the collection. Some of Kleinfeld Hudson’s Bay designers are a part of this year’s collection, including Paloma Blanca, Christopher Paunil and Frascara Bridal.