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How to Start a Bridal Shop

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Bridal Shop

Fast Facts

Investment range

$43,500 - $88,300

Revenue potential

$208,000 - $520,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$52,000 - $130,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

Weddings are special events, and brides want their day to be perfect, especially the wedding dress. Brides agonize over choosing the right dress, and when they find the one they want, they’re willing to spend some serious money to own it. That’s why the U.S. bridal shop industry is worth more than $2 billion.

If you want to tap into that market and help brides achieve their wedding dreams, you could start your own bridal shop. 

But beyond great wedding gown taste, you need to acquire some business knowledge. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide will walk your through the process of starting a successful bridal shop.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Pros

  • High markups on wedding dresses
  • Help blushing brides find their perfect gown
  • Make a good living

Cons

  • Competitive industry
  • Deal with Bridezillas
  • High startup costs

Bridal shop industry trends

Industry size and growth

Bridal industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Bridal Shop Trends and Challenges

Trends

  • Interestingly, colorful wedding dresses were in the spotlight at 2022s bridal fashion week.
  • Many brides are interested in bridal separates that can be worn again as a fashion statement.

Challenges

  • The trend with millennials is to ‘dress down’ for their wedding, decreasing the demand for bridal gowns.
  • Supply chain issues are causing delays in inventory shipments for bridal shops.

How much does it cost to start a bridal shop business?

Startup costs for a bridal shop range from $45,000 to $85,000. Expenses include space rental, space preparation, and inventory. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your bridal shop business, including: 

  • Dress racks
  • Mirrors
  • Dressing room fixtures
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$500$300
Website$200 - $1,000$600
Initial Marketing Budget$500 - $1,000$750
Shop space rental$2,500 - $5,000 $3,750
Shop preparation$10,000 - $20,000$15,000
Inventory$30,000 - $60,000$45,000
Total$43,500 - $88,300$65,900

How much can you earn from a bridal shop business?

Bridal Shop earning forecast

The average price of a wedding dress is around $2,000. Your profit margin after your costs of the dresses and other expenses should be about 25%. 

In your first year or two, you could sell two dresses a week, bringing in $208,000 in revenue. This would mean $52,000 in profit, assuming that 25% margin. 

As you gain traction, sales could climb to five dresses a week. With annual revenue of $520,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $130,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a bridal shop. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Funding the startup costs
  • Finding a good location
  • Breaking into a competitive market

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a bridal shop, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research bridal shops in your area to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of bridal shops that offer similar products. 
  • Review your competitors’ products – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies.
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a bridal boutique that also offers prom dresses, or a bridal shop that sells designer wedding dresses.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as colorful bridal gowns.

In addition to wedding dresses, you could offer bridal accessories, bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, and prom dresses. 

How much should you charge for wedding dresses?

The pricing for wedding dresses varies widely depending on several factors:

  • Brand and Designer: Designer dresses from well-known brands typically cost more due to their reputation, design exclusivity, and quality.
  • Material and Craftsmanship: High-quality materials like silk, lace, or hand-embroidered details add to the cost. The more intricate the design and the higher the quality of the material, the more expensive the dress.
  • Customization: Custom-made dresses are usually more expensive than off-the-rack options. The cost increases with the level of customization and the complexity of the design.
  • Location and Market: Prices can vary depending on where you are selling. High-end boutiques in big cities often charge more than stores in smaller towns.
  • Target Market: Consider the average income and spending habits of your target market. Luxury markets can bear higher prices than more budget-conscious ones.
  • Overheads and Profit Margin: Factor in the costs of running your business (rent, utilities, staff wages, etc.) and the profit margin you aim to achieve.
  • Competition: Research what similar businesses in your area are charging. Pricing too high or too low compared to competitors can affect your market position.

Generally, wedding dresses can range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Once you know your costs, use this our profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market, of course, will mainly be brides, but it could also be the bride’s parents. You should spread out your marketing to include TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. You could also advertise on bridal blogs. 

Where? Choose a bridal shop location

Here’s what to consider when choosing the right location for a bridal shop:

  • Target Market Proximity: Ensure the location is easily accessible to your target demographic.
  • Visibility and Accessibility: Choose a spot that’s visible and easy to get to, preferably with ample parking.
  • Competition Analysis: Avoid areas with high competition unless you offer something unique.
  • Foot Traffic: A location with high foot traffic can increase visibility and attract walk-in customers.
  • Size and Layout: Ensure the space is large enough for your inventory and fitting areas, with a welcoming layout.
  • Local Amenities: Nearby amenities like cafes and other bridal services can draw more customers.
Bridal Shop Business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Bridal Shop Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “bridal shop” or “bridal salon”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Eternal Celebrations” over “Luxury Brides”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Bridal Shop Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Provide a brief summary of your business plan, highlighting your vision, target market, and competitive edge in the bridal industry.
  • Business Overview: Describe your bridal shop, its location, the types of bridal attire and accessories you’ll offer, and the unique features that will make your shop stand out.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, accessories, and alteration services your shop will provide to brides and bridal parties.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the bridal market in your area, including trends, customer preferences, and the size of the target audience seeking bridal attire.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify and evaluate your competitors in the bridal industry, highlighting what differentiates your shop, such as exclusive designer collections or exceptional customer service.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategies for attracting brides-to-be, including advertising, social media presence, bridal fairs, and partnerships with wedding vendors.
  • Management Team: Introduce the key members of your team, emphasizing their expertise in fashion, retail, and customer service.
  • Operations Plan: Explain how your bridal shop will operate day-to-day, covering aspects like inventory management, fitting appointments, and staff training.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including sales forecasts, pricing strategies, and startup costs, to demonstrate the financial viability of your business.
  • Appendix: Include any supplementary materials, such as images of bridal collections, vendor agreements, or testimonials from satisfied brides, to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to bridal shops. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your bridal shop will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a bridal shop business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

Step 8: Apply for Business Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a bridal shop business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your bridal shop business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Lightspeed, BridalLive, or Poppy, to manage your inventory, appointments, purchases, and sales. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

To showcase wedding dresses on your website, use high-quality images that highlight each dress’s details and design, and provide concise descriptions including fabric, sizes, and prices. This visual and informative approach helps customers easily envision and choose their perfect dress.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Reserve Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Social Media Storytelling: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share real stories of brides finding their dream dresses in your shop, creating an emotional connection with potential customers.
  • Collaborate with Wedding Vendors: Partner with local florists, photographers, and wedding planners to cross-promote services, expanding your reach within the wedding industry.
  • Host Exclusive Events: Organize VIP shopping nights or bridal fairs, offering exclusive discounts to attendees and creating a buzz around your shop.
  • Online Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on popular review sites, enhancing your shop’s credibility and influencing potential brides.
  • Loyalty Programs: Implement a loyalty program offering discounts on accessories or future purchases for brides who refer others or make repeat visits.
  • Showcase Trends: Stay current with bridal trends and regularly update your social media with fresh content, positioning your shop as a go-to destination for the latest styles.
  • Local SEO Optimization: Optimize your online presence for local search, ensuring that brides in your area can easily find your shop when searching for bridal attire.
  • Influencer Collaborations: Partner with local influencers or brides-to-be who have a significant following on social media to showcase your dresses and reach a broader audience.
  • Themed Photo Shoots: Arrange styled photo shoots featuring your dresses in unique settings, creating shareable content for social media and establishing your brand as aspirational.
  • Referral Discounts: Create a referral program where satisfied customers receive discounts for referring friends, tapping into the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your bridal shop meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your bridal shop business could be:

  • Sip champagne while you find the perfect wedding gown
  • Designer wedding dresses – get the luxury you deserve
  • Bridal gowns for less

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a bridal shop business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in bridal shops for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in bridal shops. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a bridal shop business include:

  • Store Clerks – assist customers, make sales
  • Seamstress – make alterations
  • Marketing Lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General Manager – accounting, inventory management

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Bridal Shop – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Weddings are back in full force with the pandemic winding down, so now could be a great time to start a bridal shop. You’ll be helping lovely brides find the dress of their dreams, and making a nice profit at the same time. Who knows, maybe your shop could expand and become the next David’s Bridal.

You’ve got the business know-how now, so you’re ready to find a great location and get your bridal shop up and running!

Bridal Shop Business FAQs

Is a bridal shop profitable?

Markups on wedding gowns are high, so a bridal shop can be very profitable. You just need to follow what’s trending to select the right inventory.

What happens during a typical day at a bridal shop?

You’ll help new brides select dresses and measure them for alterations needed. You may also have customers come in by appointment.

What is the growth potential of a bridal shop?

A bridal shop can grow by adding new locations, or even by franchising. David’s Bridal is an example of a bridal shop that grew significantly.

Can you start bridal shop on the side?

Theoretically, you could have a bridal shop and take clients by appointment only. You may lose customers, though, if you can’t book appointments at convenient times.

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How to Start a Bridal Shop