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The Online Bride

July/August 2003
By Jenna Lane

 

Filling out my bridal registry has been less a matter of filling the shelves of my first kitchen, and more like rounding out my fifth. Established apartment dwellers in our late twenties and early thirties, my fiance and I recently found ourselves thinning the herd of our respective kitchen and houseware collections.

I lobbied to keep the gigantic Scanpan cauldron, though I had to admit I hadn't used it in seven years. He insisted on the usefulness of his cast iron and swore he'd use the ice cream maker again. A few Revere Ware pots made it into the mix, while their pan companions were beat out by nonstick. The 10" F. Dick knife? No question. We'll keep it, and come to think of it maybe we could use a 6" too. This wedding is our chance to upgrade.

With that, we moved to the computer, to modify our online registry. On an ordinary day, deciding that I needed a knife or pan would have involved a trip to the small, independent retailer downtown. But with wedding guests from all over the country, we chose the convenience of an online registry. Furthermore, we went looking for a service that consolidates multiple stores' registries into one web site.

We considered www.theknot.com and www.weddingchannel.com. The Knot seems to be affiliated with Fortunoff and Linens-n-Things, whose logos you spot inside such categories as "high-tech" and "sports and leisure" beside the traditional formal china and crystal. Wedding Channel, meanwhile, goes the other direction, foregoing categories and just listing lots of stores: Macy's and the Federated department stores, Tiffany, Crate & Barrel, REI, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and more. We chose Wedding Channel because its web site seemed better organized, and because the wider range of retail partners made it seem likely that our not-so-web-savvy guests could physically visit a store where we registered.

With these few decisive turns on the road to registry, we had suddenly gone from Main Street USA to a superhighway lined with big box stores. Elsa Pinto-Melikian, president of Your Registry, says this is hardly uncommon, and being shoved in this direction in her own registry experience made her mad enough to start her business serving smaller merchants.

"I wanted to register for real cook's stuff," she says. "I am an avid cook. So I wanted to upgrade some of my pans, add to my collection of specialty tools. Well, that would not be Williams-Sonoma. I call them the kitchen gift store. They are not a gourmet kitchen store. I also wanted to register at my local Ace Hardware dealer, and that was a no-go."

Literally every place Pinto-Melikian wanted to register didn't offer the service; let alone online. "I feel that in registry today," she says, "many merchants are locked in a time zone that is 20 years old. Women are getting married at 28, not 22. The men are even older. The couple has buying power, they have developed their taste in things, they are much more mature. They want special things."

As we careened down the Macy's highway, selecting a Cuisinart blender, my fiance and I did take one look back — for "special things" — at our favorite pottery store downtown. No one else offered our favorite dishware. But as we filled out the sheet of paper and took a stack of business cards to hand out along with the Wedding Channel address, we didn't have high hopes of drinking from those wonderful mugs one day.

Pinto-Melikian's service would offer that retailer — or anyone, from boat suppliers to dog breeders — an online registry. "Brides today are telling their favorite retailers, 'Offer the service online or I am going to have to go somewhere else.'"

Naturally, Pinto-Melikian is a big believer in the market opportunities the bridal registry world presents. Retailers, she says, "are totally missing out if they don't offer registry, and if they don't capture their loyal customer's business during their wedding plans."

"Registry is a way to cement the customer to you," Pinto-Melikian continues, pointing out the personal attention a small store can offer not only the bride and groom, but their family and friends. My own experience proves her right. My fiance and I were surprised at how many salespeople passed us by in department stores, even as we weighed pieces of silverware, cutting at imaginary plates, for the better part of an hour. That department stores and other large stores earned our business anyway — through convenience alone - should be a lesson to the small retailers we love but left behind.

© 2003 - ELM COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

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