H&M in, Gap out of wedding dress business

Discussion
Photo: Weddington Way
Apr 27, 2018
Tom Ryan

The Gap announced earlier this month that it will close its only wedding line, Weddington Way. The news arrived about a week after H&M launched its first online wedding shop.

Weddington Way sells bridesmaid dresses and wedding party gifts. According to its website, the company launched in 2011 “with the goal of transforming an outdated and stressful bridesmaid dress shopping experience and making it enjoyable again for brides and bridesmaids alike.”

The digital-first focus supported coordination across geographically dispersed bridal parties. Gap acquired the business in 2016.

In mid-April, Weddington Way said it would only fulfill orders through June 11 and was in the process of closing the brand’s in-store shops within Banana Republic.

“While the business is performing well, we determined that Weddington Way would not scale in an impactful way for Gap Inc.,” a Gap spokesman told Women’s Wear Daily.

The collapse of Alfred Angelo last July underscored the challenges facing the wedding industry as marriage rates having fallen sharply since the mid 1980s. Many couples are not choosing to get married until they reach their thirties and forties. J. Crew shuttered its wedding business in 2016 after six years.

According to a study from The Knot, the average cost of a bridal gown is $1,509, the average bridesmaid gown is $145, and the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. reached $35,329 in 2016, an all-time high. Traditional bridal house including Alfred Angelo and David’s Bridal, are being hurt, however, by the “casualization” of both gowns and bridesmaid dresses as brides make less formal, less costly choices.

The opportunity to sell more affordable ready-to-wear dresses for wedding occasions has led to heightened competition from Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s in the department store space, Urban Outfitters with its BHLDN concept, and now H&M. H&M’s traditional long white dresses start at $129, with bridesmaid dresses starting at $59.99.

Wrote Jeanette Settembre for Moneyish, “Designers creating cheaper bridal lines are likely nodding to the millennial trend of minimalism, and their tendency to spend more money on experiences than on tangible items.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are Millennials recasting the retail opportunity for wedding dresses and gifts? Where do you see the biggest pain points that retailers could address in helping couples get set for their big day?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Price deflation and falling volumes have both been unhelpful and have undermined the economics of many bridal businesses. "
"I bought an off-the-rack Nicole Miller dress on sale for my day! Stressful, expensive and wear-it-once are not what a bride needs."
"Millennials are some of the thriftiest individuals around. The idea of buying an expensive dress just doesn’t fit their worldview."

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "H&M in, Gap out of wedding dress business"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The problem is that this is a niche market with a higher cost-to-serve than most of apparel retail. Price deflation and falling volumes have both been unhelpful and have undermined the economics of many bridal businesses.

I have to say that in typical Gap fashion, they did very little with Weddington Way. Putting the offer into physical stores was sensible in theory; in practice, putting it into failing Banana Republic shops was never going to yield good results.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Brides have been gouged and commercially abused for so long that innovations and cost containment approaches are a primary part of planning to make their big day special. This is appreciated by their friends who are expected to participate in multiple weddings annually, with all the inherent expenses that tax students and new professionals. Weddings might take a page from the funeral industry playbook where consumer trends pay more respect to life than to the profits of product and service providers.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Driven primarily by Millennials, but not exclusively, certain luxury goods have seen extreme price deflation due to significantly lower demand. As we witness the rise of brands like Rent the Runway, we have to recognize that the appetite for “wear it once” luxury apparel is in serious decline. Millennials, for example, are not viewing these purchases as a critical part of the experience when they could put their money into other, more emotionally satisfying, areas. Gap shuttering their wedding line is just one example of the fallout. That said, we also have to recognize Gap didn’t do very much to build up the line to make it more interesting. So it may not come as a surprise that they didn’t see the growth they wanted from it.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Millennials are some of the thriftiest individuals around. The idea of buying an expensive dress just doesn’t fit their worldview. With Bed Bath & Beyond being the number one place brides register you have to believe they are looking for more practical ways to use their money than what tradition may have told them.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I’m Millennial-minded … I bought an off-the-rack Nicole Miller dress on sale for my day! Stressful, expensive and wear-it-once are not what a bride needs.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

My daughter wore a simply gorgeous and classic wedding dress from David’s Bridal that cost significantly less than she had planned. Millennials have a wealth of information, way beyond the local bridal store, which helps them to locate the right merchandise at the right cost. It’s exciting to watch.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Price deflation and falling volumes have both been unhelpful and have undermined the economics of many bridal businesses. "
"I bought an off-the-rack Nicole Miller dress on sale for my day! Stressful, expensive and wear-it-once are not what a bride needs."
"Millennials are some of the thriftiest individuals around. The idea of buying an expensive dress just doesn’t fit their worldview."

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