(Bloomberg)—The pandemic hammered the wedding industry, but David’s Bridal survived, and now the chain is devising how to win next year’s boom.
All the postponements during the COVID-19 era mean that 2022 is expected to have 2.5 million nuptials, which would be the most in nearly four decades, according to The Wedding Report, a research firm.
The surge is coming at a delicate time for David’s Bridal. The retailer, which has more than 300 stores, declared bankruptcy in November 2018. The company emerged a short time later and brought on Jim Marcum as chief executive officer in June 2019 from private equity firm Apollo Management and following a long career in retail management. Then COVID-19 hit.
Under Marcum, the chain, which is privately held, has tried to modernize by launching a loyalty program and expanding its presence on YouTube and TikTok. The company said that it sells one in three bridal dresses in the U.S., up from one in four from before the pandemic. And now it has more resources to improve upon that after borrowing $70 million in May to fund its plans.
Bloomberg recently spoke to Marcum about the pandemic, courting the Hispanic community and the current supply-chain mess.
What is going to help David’s Bridal take advantage of the looming surge in weddings?
Probably the biggest pivot we’ve done is on customer service. Today, service is everything in our stores. We encourage reviews. The leadership team every day at 6 a.m. gets all the one- and two-star comments anywhere in the country or world from the previous day and—trust me—we’re responding to them. We’re not only responding to the customer, but we’re responding to why did this happen?
How did the business change when your stores were shuttered during the pandemic and shopping shifted online?
We launched a virtual stylist program. We developed augmented reality, where we could take dresses and bring them right up on her phone.
How are you trying to diversify?
We’ve launched more assortments in dresses that allow you to do multiple events, like the rehearsal dinner or the bachelorette weekend. We have a pretty robust gift business.
And how are you trying to expand your customer base?
We launched, in the midst of COVID, quinceanera dresses. What you found in these young women who are growing up in the Latina community is that the 15-year-old celebration is huge. It’s like a wedding.
It’s been very, very well received. We’re very optimistic about it because if we can build that relationship with her, we can also help her in her wedding. We’re aggressively turning over every stone.
What’s it like being a CEO during this global supply-chain mess?
We’re constantly juggling. We’ve had production in Vietnam where we’ve had to shift out. At one point, Sri Lanka was an issue, so we shifted out. We shifted out from China. We shifted to China. We shifted to Sri Lanka. We shifted out of Sri Lanka.
We can move by boat. We can move by plane. We’ve done both. We can prioritize production by orders and by event dates. If it’s something where the event date looks challenged, we can move production. We will pull the trigger and move it by air and have it in 24 hours.
Do you think that COVID has forever changed the wedding industry?
That’s a great question. Right now when we look out to what we’re seeing, 2022 will be the record year of weddings. Will it be 2023 or 2024 that normalizes? We’ll see.
There was clearly a period of time during COVID where you saw the smaller event. Most of them who are planning out further are planning parties as big as 2019. They’re planning everything as big.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed.