Here Come the Costco Brides

Discussion
Mar 01, 2011
George Anderson

Costco (that’s right, Costco) is testing full-service wedding
boutique departments at some of its clubs.

The retailer has begun hosting traveling
trunk shows featuring six exclusive wedding dresses from bridal designer Kirstie
Kelly in sizes from two through 24. Prices will range from $699 to $1,399,
advertised as starting 40 percent below normal retail. Special dressing rooms
are being built in each of the clubs for the test.

"In today’s world, many brides-to-be are paying for all or part of their
weddings and are becoming very savvy about how to find a beautiful, high-quality
wedding gown at an affordable price," said Ms. Kelly, in a press release. "The
Kirstie Kelly Signature line offers all the splendor of finding the perfect
wedding gown but at a Costco price."

Costco’s move follows others into
the bridal business. Last year both Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters introduced
their own concepts. In separate RetailWire polls,
97 percent thought Nordstrom had a good or excellent chance to succeed with
its concept. Fifty-three percent gave the same marks to Urban Outfitters.

Discussion Questions: Will women go to Costco to buy their wedding gowns? Will Sam’s and BJ’s follow Costco’s lead?

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16 Comments on "Here Come the Costco Brides"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

If Costco can make it cool do so, the brides will come. Growing up in Boston, the “running of the brides” at discount Filene’s Basement was an annual event covered by the press. The goal was to find the prettiest dress at the cheapest price and a good deal was a badge of honor.

Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Costco is likely to find a market for wedding dresses, as it has for so many other categories. The question is whether the volume will be big enough to support this sort of service-intensive merchandise. I’m sure Costco will offer quality merchandise at significant savings, but the question to be answered by the test is whether large numbers of brides really want to buy their wedding dresses at a warehouse club in the first place.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 2 months ago

Costco is the best of the clubs. They want to grow. Wedding dresses are a potential extension to their business and they have a good customer base for wedding accessories. They could match Nordstrom at a lower price but the trade-off would be a wee bit lower wedding aroma. But if Sam’s Warehouse Club–or even Walmart–also go into wedding dresses, the luster of buying an upscale wedding dress sold in club-type and discount stores might fade in the sunset.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I think it’s possible there’s a home run here…but I’m not completely sure. After all, I thought Costco’s decision to get into the casket business was a little warped, but they seem to have continued to sell them…you just never know. If you asked a bride to choose between an off-price retailer and Coscto, Costco would appear to be a better decision.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 2 months ago

This seems likely to be another success for Costco. They already sell diamond jewelry, big-screen TVs, and other big ticket merchandise as well as operate service-intensive outlets like California Closets. Why wouldn’t they be successful in Bridal?

Costco’s simplicity and value is, as the numbers demonstrate, a winning formula. It’s hard to think of a category where they couldn’t be successful.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Will brides buy wedding gowns at Costco–yes, but. The “but” is, can Costco make money on this service? Having a daughter go through the process, it certainly is intensive for both the bride and the retailer. It requires a strong service emphasis on the retailer’s part.

Costco is known for good merchandise at great prices but guiding a bride through the selection process and hand holding during a fitting process is labor intensive and to do it well requires a very strong service mind set. I do believe that of the three club organizations Costco is only one that could pull it off.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 2 months ago

I reckon there is at least one bride who won’t be purchasing her wedding dress at Costco: the young lady I saw pick-up a $1,000 knife set for her registry with her fiance at Williams Sonoma yesterday!

I must be a bit old-fashioned because I found that borderline shocking…For everybody else however, why not? Costco has done a fine job selling quality products at discount prices. Since most newlyweds pay for their own wedding, and would presumably rather travel or put a down-payment on a house than pay extra for a “boutique” dress, this could very well catch up.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Another example how all retail is being commoditized. It used to be a special day, a special event, a special service to find just the right dress for the big day. Now it will be little more than picking out a pair of Lee jeans on the tables. The more people settle for service no better than a gas station, the more the act of shopping loses its place.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Costco is more than a retailer; it’s a cult favorite. Loyal Costco-ites who purchase nearly everything from their favorite store (food, dress shirts, fine jewelry, caskets) will think that a bridal boutique is a logical first step. The big question mark is whether Costco will stick with it, given the need for labor-intensive tailoring. But I’d certainly give them a fighting chance!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

More power to Costco for continuing to “stretch the limits of the box” as they look for more ways, be it unconventional, to increase revenue.

I am reminded of an article in the local paper about a funeral parlor adding weddings to their “menus.” Now that is thinking way outside the limits of the box to me. One’s happiest day countered by another’s day of great sadness. All within the same walls.

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

My first thought on this was ‘OMG, are you kidding me?’ All I could visualize was a few cheap dresses wedged in between the cargo shorts and the graphic tees in the apparel section of the store. But, after reading the articles about the offering and the experience, I think it might work. They are exclusive dresses from a well known designer available for a short time. They have included the all important personalized experience to include “comfortable changing room(s), lounge for family and friends and an expert bridal consultant.” Add to that a wide range of sizes at 40% off retail and I think they have a formula for success.

Sara Ashton
Guest
Sara Ashton
10 years 2 months ago

Who cares where you buy your dress as long as you love it? I was married four months ago and initially looked at all of the boutiques and scoured the internet. I had a dress custom made which I did not like and ultimately bought a dress off the rack at Nordstrom. If Costco offered stylish dresses and other wedding supplies as a one stop shop during my wedding planning I would not have hesitated to use them. Of course, there will always be the crowd who have to have their dress made by “xyz” designer, however, that customer is not Costco’s customer anyway. If Costco is mindful of the demographic of their client base I think they will be successful.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
10 years 2 months ago

If it’s the right dress at the right price many consumers don’t care where it comes from and as discussed, some actually would find some cachet to buying at Costco. However, if Costco adheres to its strict, no more than 15% markup discipline, I think given the dressing room requirement and other issues it may not bring the necessary returns, though I am sure they are also considering the PR and marketing value of doing this.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I can’t see why Costco won’t be successful at bridal. They have caskets. Why not bridal gowns? Nothing astonishing about it at all. I’m quite surprised it took this long. Being at the center of major life events would seem essential.

I’m not sure if Sam’s or BJ’s will follow. Sam’s might offer them camouflage material accented in orange to appeal to their market. It would be a perfect marketing combination with CMT’s “My Big Redneck Wedding.” It’s surprising also that hasn’t happened already. BJ’s seems to be in turmoil. I’m not sure taking on something new is the best option for them whether it be wedding dresses or anything else.

Brooke Harrington
Guest
Brooke Harrington
10 years 2 months ago

As a recent bride, I wouldn’t have bought my dress from Costco. The experience itself of finding and buying a dress is the most fun; to get your dress at the same place you get your orange juice seems anticlimactic. Besides, it is certainly possible (and even easy!) to get a dress within the price range of the Costco dress designer (online outlets, trunk shows, sample sales, etc.).

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

My concern isn’t whether Costco can carry off bridal, it’s whether the bridal market can support the influx of new at-a-price players (now including none other than Vera Wang through David’s Bridal).

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