2004 Bridal Series II
Interpreting Today's Bridal Bouquet:
How to Attract the New Bride
Echo Boomer & Bridal Registry
The bridal couple of the new millennium is better
educated, more brand aware, and more technologically advanced than
that of any previous generation. The Echo Boom Generation -- those
now 25 years old -- is a generation of cross shoppers who know what
they want and where they want to buy it. They are also a generation
that embraces traditional values with big wedding plans and registry
lists in the thousands of dollars. So, are you attracting them to
your store? Do they know you carry the brands they want? Here's
some tips to break into this new burgeoning bridal market at the
Echo Boomer & Bridal Registry
Just to review -- we discussed the new generation
of bridal couples in the first part of this series (January 2004)
-- the Millennials, Echo Boomers, or Generation Y members who were
born between 1979 and 2002. They comprise a 71-million-member generation
that's expected to increase to over 100 million. These burgeoning
numbers are projected to drive the engagement market to grow 14
percent during the next four years and a whooping 30 percent in
the next 15.
Succcessful marketing to these couples will require
educating your staff and yourself about their likes and dislikes.
An e-mail survey of newlyweds by Condé Nast Bridal Group
provides an intimate glimpse of today's bridal demographic -- the
median age is 27 years old; $83,000 is the median income; 77 percent
are white; 10 percent, African-American; seven percent, Hispanic;
and six percent, Asian. The cultural line is blurring though with
one in five young adults having at least one immigrant parent. Echo
Boomers are much more likely to have friends of a different race
and 82 percent believe that love is color-blind. Another fact to
consider is the growing power of women in this generation. The women
earn 57 percent of all bachelor degrees and 58 percent of all master's
degrees. Also, they are the primary decision makers when it comes
to wedding planning and the direction of the couple's new life.
Despite women's growing power, retailers should focus on the bridal
couple as a whole during the registry process.
"I think that the bridal couple is really a
couple. The woman is clearly making the decisions, but there is
very much of a couple approach to their wedding planning and registry.
Men are selecting items that are very much tools of the kitchen
instead of tools for the garage. It's pushing the registry fairly
heavily toward knives and pots and pans," explained Nina Lawrence,
vice president and publisher of the Condé Nast Bridal Group.
"I think it's very important for retailers to recognize that
these are cross shoppers, with almost all income levels behaving
the same. Whether they're registering at Target; a department store;
Bed, Bath & Beyond; or Williams-Sonoma, they want and expect
to find quality."
Condé Nast found that this generation's
goals are to land a well-paying job, maintain a good relationship
with their parents, and get married. Marriage is the message of
the day. These are the 20-somethings who are feeding the reality
television craze for shows like "The Bachelorette," "The
Bachelor," and a myriad of dating shows. It's a generation
of instant messaging, the Internet, and speed dating. But interestingly,
it's a generation that firmly believes in traditional bridal registries.
Bridal couples in the Condé Nast survey indicated that they
were very satisfied with the registry process. Specialty stores
-- such as Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma -- received a
100-percent satisfaction rating. Mass merchandisers followed with
98 percent; discount specialty stores, 96 percent; department stores
received 94 percent, and mass department stores, 92 percent.
Our own interviews with bridal couples revealed
that those in the Echo Boom generation were very impressed with
the process -- in particular, registries with online management
Alicia and Seth
Alicia Fedele and Seth Williams are planning on
marrying in Massachusetts this year. They began their registry process
with an eye toward online access both for their convenience and
that of their guests.
"We chose Pottery Barn and Macy's because of
the nationwide access. They have a great selection for every room
in the house. We were able to walk through their 'registry' section
and picked out a lot of things at one time," 27-year-old Fedele
explained. "Online services were important so that we could
change our quantities without going all the way back to the store.
Dragging Seth out more than once for gift registries on a Sunday
during football season was not an option. Online registries made
it so I could print them out, bring them home, make changes, et
cetera. Also, it helps when items are 'no longer available,' so
we can change them online and pick out something else."
Didi Meltzer, WeddingChannel.com vice president
of registry, explained that the Internet provides couples with broader
access to selections, styles, and tastes.
"It's really been an evolution," she explained.
"Forty to sixty percent of couples are starting their registry
online because of the convenience. If they start in the store, they
can see and feel the product, as well as get the expertise from
the bridal consultants and that is really important for the couples
who need direction. Other couples like to work on it late at night
and then go to the store and get the assistance."
Regardless of the Internet experience, Meltzer said
they've found multichannel couples -- those who use both in-store
and online services -- are the most satisfied with the experience.
"The multichannel bride is the most valuable
to the retailer as well because they create the most comprehensive
registries and give their guests a great cross section of items,"
Condé Nast couples pointed out strengths
for each market channel's registry process. Mass merchandisers were
credited for having a good, fun registration process. A stress-free
environment, gift return, and brand selection were the appreciated
attributes for department stores, and specialty stores were credited
with all of the above, as well as unique brands and products not
widely available otherwise.
"Service is a funny thing. The Target registrant
doesn't get much service, doesn't expect the service, gets the gun,
and is happy with what they get. They are primarily concerned with
price," Lawrence explained. "But if you are going to put
out unique product at a high price, this customer expects great
customer service and also wants the opportunity to shop when and
where they want and that includes the Internet."
Jason and Carolyn
Jason Woodham and Carolyn Kenny are both 21 years
old. The two Oakville, Ontario residents are childhood sweethearts
who are in the midst of planning a $50,000 formal wedding. Since
they're starting their first new home together -- both currently
live at home with their parents, they've compiled quite a registry
list. Like others of their generation, they are cross shoppers who
harbor little loyalty to any specific store, but possess plenty
of loyalty to specific brands. This generation registers at an average
of three stores, with particular concern about how convenient it
is for their guests.
The Condé Nast report shows that 65 percent
of Echo Boomers aspire to be "foodies" -- just another
illustration of where and why they are registering. The largest
portion of the registry is casual dinnerware (80 percent), with
crystal and fine china both averaging a little over 50 percent.
Eighty-two percent want their homes to be filled
with quality brands, while the same number plan to informally entertain
often but still register for brands that reflect luxury, quality,
"We started most of our registries online.
We're registered at The Bay, Sears, Linens & Things, Williams-Sonoma,
Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware,"
One of the most important aspects of reaching the
Echo Boom bridal couple is letting them know you exist. Wedding
planning is fast and furious. Rarely do brides research their bridal
registries before they become engaged. One of the best approaches
to a successful bridal registry is to ensure it's abundantly evident
in your store and that your current brides and their guests have
an excellent experience -- you can be sure their girlfriends will
remember your store when it's their turn. The services you offer
are also as important, with online registry management being critical.
"Everything that you print should have the
bridal registry on it. Brides don't know there is bridal registry
until you call it bridal registry," explained Elsa P. Pinto-Melikian,
president of Your Registry, Inc. "Although everyone calls it
gift registry these days, brides can't bridge the gap -- be obvious
and market it as bridal registry."
For gourmet specialty retailers, this generation's
trends are a boon to bridal registry. Lawrence points to the waves
of "foodies" -- both men and women -- who like to cook
and watch the Food Network. These are the same people who want to
own high-quality cookware and knives to entertain their friends
"It's a major opportunity for the tabletop
and gourmet markets," Lawrence said. "One of the qualities
of the Echo Boom Generation is they have a broader and tighter network
of friends and are closer to their family than the previous two
generations. They are going to cook for their big circle of friends.
They are going to want to have top-quality brands, not necessarily
formal, but definitely luxury."
Lawrence continued, "I would say the preparation
that a retailer needs to do for this generation is first and foremost
present product in a way that is entertaining and design driven.
This is a very visual generation that expects the products to feel
like it's there for them. They want a personalized relationship
with the brand and the store."
The Right Image
Marketing gurus say the product, not the store,
is currently the destination for today's bridal couples. If this
is the case, then your bridal registry marketing plans should highlight
what you have and the brands that you stock.
"I think smaller specialty stores have an amazing
gift with this type of consumer. This consumer wants to feel special,
be recognized as someone important. They want someone who will talk
with them, work with them, and create something personal for them.
The specialty store has the opportunity to offer this consumer personalization,"
Personalizing your bridal registry program begins
with creating your own registry's identity. Bring the personality
of your store into the approach.
"You cannot design a store around bridal registry.
Customers like and register at a store because they like the store,"
Pinto-Melikian said. "Retailers should understand that they
can't simply keep things on their shelves that are interesting for
Rather than stocking items you believe brides might
want, develop your bridal registry around your store's personality.
Bridal registry in itself is a marketing program.
Pinto-Melikian continued, saying, "Everyone
who steps into your store should know that you have bridal and wedding
registry. How you achieve this is up to you, but they need to know
you have these services."
Commence with an in-store promotion. Make sure every
customer in your store knows you have a bridal registry program
through great signage and promotional materials.
"It should be obvious and overt in the store,
especially during bridal planning season, which typically begins
in January, February, and March and then again in July and August,"
Pinto-Melikian explained. "The number-one engagement month
is December, so support those engagements with your bridal registry
Staging events is another successful way of attracting
bridal couples and educating your sphere of influence about the
services you offer.
Lawrence points to a recent Condé Nast/Bride's
event in New York City as the type of entertainment retailers need
to create for this trend-setting, brand-conscious generation.
Held last September, the Wedding March on Madison
brought together designers, retailers, and bridal couples for an
exclusive one-day event with a ticket price of $135. Along with
traditional fashion shows, retailers the likes of Crate & Barrel
partnered with vendors in cooking demonstrations and entertainment
ideas for newlyweds.
"We had 800 consumers pay $135 to experience
the integration of some of the world's top wedding planners,"
Lawrence said. "That kind of experience is what this generation
wants. They want great product and great design and they want it
presented in a way that talks to them. It was an astounding success."
For specialty independents, Pinto-Melikian suggests
spreading the word about your registry through your own bridal networking
program. Network with area bridal consultants, caterers, jewelry
stores, wedding photographers, florists, and bakeries.
"Work together to create a trade discount program
for any business professional that sends you someone who then registers
in your store. If you give them an incentive, they will send people,"
she explained. "This can be time consuming, but it's a great
idea. You don't have to reach every single business in the area
-- start with your friends, people you know through the Chamber
of Commerce. You can even create your own bridal show. Network with
other wedding service professionals and create a reciprocal program.
Identify the people, create the program, and make sure it happens."
Pinto-Melikian explained that by creating your own
bridal show, you can better reach local brides and differentiate
your store's bridal registry from others in your market.
"This second phase of the project simply requires
five or six companies cooperating together to advertise, market,
and promote the event," she continued. "It's my opinion
that your dollars are better put to use doing your own network bridal
show event with your peers than if you participate in a regional
Eileen Monaghan, vice president of the Association
of Bridal Consultants, added, "Bridal fairs are a good place
to get the bride and learn about the couples who are out there.
If you can't plan your own, look for upscale bridal shows."
She continued, "It can be hard to find a bride. Regional bridal
planners are a good place to market your store. Brides are more
inclined to pick up a regional bridal planner. Many of the regional
planners are tied to online services, such as The Knot."
Meltzer agrees that reaching the bride at the beginning of the engagement
period is essential to retailers attempting to capture today's bridal
"It is a challenge to get noticed today because
registry has become a very popular initiative amongst retailers.
It's important to get brides and grooms at the point when they are
forming brand loyalty," she stated.
Most couples become engaged 10 to 12 months before
the wedding, so reaching them while they are selecting their wedding
gowns and planning where to hold their wedding can constitute the
step that cements your name in their plans for bridal registry.
"It's important to get in there when the brides
and grooms are trying to figure it all out, when they are still
deciding on their style as a couple," Meltzer said. "It
is the critical juncture to turn the corner as a player or contender
in the registry arena."
No Cookie Cutters
Despite the fact that the focus of your bridal
registry focus should begin to cater to the needs of the Echo Boom
Generation, you must also remember a myriad of bridal couples don't
fit the traditional mold. It's important that you and your staff
are amply prepared for any couple that walks through your doors
-- whether it's an older couple, a same-sex couple, or an ethnically
mixed couple. While prejudices seem archaic, people do have them
and as a specialty store owner, you have to be sure the person in
charge of your registry service either has none or checks them at
the door each day.
Kristy Kirkwood of Washington State ended up not registering because
of the impression she received while researching the registry process
at her local department stores.
"I was given poor service -- I think because
of attitude. I got horrendous looks from staff at every store that
I went to. Most of them looked at me like I was crazy, a 40-year-old
woman getting married, having a big wedding, and pondering a wedding
registry," she explained. "I think most of them didn't
want to be bothered with me, mostly because of my age."
She continued, "I would have liked to receive a new set of
china, and some nice Waterford crystal; instead, we received things
we did not want or need, like silver serving dishes."
Kirkwood's advice to retailers is to provide better
customer service by teaching all your employees how to help with
the registry process and to be sure your registry experts harbor
"Look at everyone as an equal -- don't be prejudiced
against someone because of age. Everyone deserves a nice wedding,
no matter who they are, what age they are, or anything else,"
Christine and Kala
Still, some retailers are doing things right. Christine
Miele and Kala Bokelman, both 34, did not encounter any negative
attitudes when they registered at Macy's and Crate & Barrel.
"Both retailers were good. We started both
registries in the store, on two different days. For us, what was
obviously nice was that neither flinched at a same-sex couple registering.
They just gave us our scanning guns and we were on our way,"
Miele explained. "We're making a decision to have a ceremony
and we want to be able to walk in and register like everyone else.
Our experience in Los Angeles was great, but I don't know how it
is in other parts of the country."
Pinto-Melikian said bridal couples across the country
should receive the same level of service and reception regardless
of the couple's demographics.
"You cannot have a different program, whether
it's a cultural difference, same-sex difference, or an older couple.
They are brides and you need to treat them all the same. You have
to treat them as if they were all first-time young brides,"
she said. "It's also important that the people you have in
the store working with bridal registrants are the least opinionated
of the bunch. You have to have the best people in your store working
with the bridal registry -- the nicest, most gracious, soft-spoken
person working with the bride."
Pinto-Melikian then noted, "It's such an incredibly
strong bonding opportunity that the store has with this client --
you can't take a chance on losing them as a long-term customer.
Don't blow it."
Monaghan said her consultants are discovering an ethnically diverse
"They are spending more money," she explained. "They
are definitely more sophisticated and they have a taste for trendy
ethnic foods. One of the overall trends is to add a touch of ethnicity
to the wedding and the simplest way to do that is in the food."
You may think this little piece of information
isn't important unless you are catering the wedding, but you may
want to remember this fact when you are designing your gift registry.
"These bridal couples are signing up for specialty food cookware
way beyond the traditional pots and pans," Monaghan continued.
"A major percentage of brides register and they are registering
at the independent upscale gourmet stores and boutiques. They already
have the basic kitchenware items, so what they are looking for are
the unique pieces."
Marketing a Lifestyle
The main ingredient to successful bridal registry
marketing is making bridal couples understand that you stock the
products they want. Creating bundled images that speak to their
lifestyle can help to achieve that goal.
"It's very important to reach out to all different
types of wedding couples. The marketing strategy that we have found
works best is to appeal to the style, taste, and lifestyle of a
couple," Meltzer explained. "Our retailers pull together
collections of merchandise and products that meet the lifestyle
needs and tastes or preferences of different types of consumers,
whether it's contemporary, traditional, or accommodating a busy
lifestyle. These style preferences allow the couples to self-select.
They are drawn toward a cross section of products that they feel
is their need and tastes. This message cuts across different types
of consumers and socioeconomic facts."
And it's a message that hit home with many of the bridal couples
we interviewed. While most of them had good in-store experiences,
some still seemed overwhelmed even after registering.
"When we first set out to register, we walked
though Pottery Barn, and walked and walked and walked. We didn't
register for one thing," Fedele said. "We hadn't really
sat down to talk about what we needed, what colors and 'motif' we
wanted to set in our home. When we went back to register a second
time at Macy's, we had a better idea of what we needed after reviewing
what we both already had."
Make the registry process easier for couples like
this by educating your staff on how to guide them through the store
to determine their identity as a couple. Although this couple did
return to Pottery Barn later, getting your bridal registry consultants
to recognize customers like Alicia Fedele and her fiancé
is one way to build additional registries and some loyal lifetime
The final installment of our 2004 Bridal Registry
Series will discuss what should be on the bridal registry list and
how to get bridal couples to fully complete the registry in your
store. We will include comments from our bridal couples that address
their in-store experiences and how they believe the services could
have been improved. We'll also discover what they registered for,
as well as give the results of a survey designed to determine the
top-selling items in bridal registries across the country.
© 2004 VNU eMedia Inc.