Chin Up in the Downswing

positive economic news during recession

Weddings Get a New Sparkle

June 15, 2009 07:30 PM
by Anne Szustek
While soon-to-be brides and grooms are trimming their budgets here and there, providers of recession-friendly wedding accoutrements are thriving.

Recession or not, wedding gift-giving remains tradition

In the United States, more than 2.2 million women will get married during 2009, according to Reuters. And according to a poll released today conducted by and the Associated Press, 90 percent of Americans who have gone to a wedding have presented the new couple with a gift. Even if not attending, 63 percent of Americans said that they would still send a present. And during the past two years, only three percent of those polled have skipped the ceremony and reception for purely financial reasons. The bottom line: even in hard times, weddings remain a time-honored custom for all involved—and a reliable source of business for retailers.

Wedding industry adapts to consumer climate

Data from the Federal Reserve corroborates this. The Charlotte Business Journal reports that in the latest Beige Book, in which all 12 of the Fed’s district banks compile “anecdotal accounts of business conditions,” a source said that the North Carolina wedding industry has shown resilience.

Over in the Midwest, Toby Joseph, part of the family who owns Des Moines, Iowa-area jewelry store chain Joseph Jewelers, reports that business, especially for Mother’s Day, has “turned a corner” since December, he told The Des Moines Register. Wedding and engagement ring sales have stayed steady, although some couples were buying rings with smaller stones. Joseph also has offered a year of interest-free financing to help bridge the gap for the more budget-conscious, which helped to pull in a few hundred customers. Overall, “People who were putting things off are deciding to go forward,” Joseph told the Register. “They're feeling a little more comfortable now.”

Daniel Baer, a national industry leader with Ernst & Young in Montreal, tells Canwest News Service that wedding rings will still sell during recessions, even if other types of jewelry lose their retail luster. Danielle Andrews Sunkel, the president of Wedding Planners of Canada, told Canwest that couples are “putting less money into the frills—stationary [sic] and party favours—and more into the tangible things like food and entertainment.”

Saving on the dress

Some brides are cutting down on frills in the fashion sense as well. According to Reuters, David’s Bridal, the chain of wedding gown stores that has been called “the Wal-Mart of Weddings,” pulled in an estimated $683 million last year. Exact figures are unknown, given that the company is privately held. Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Jackie Oberoi says that the company posted a 3 percent year-on-year increase in sales by the end of third-quarter 2008.

A recent survey cited by Reuters indicates that approximately 55 percent of brides want to spend a maximum of $600 on their wedding gowns; that suggests that David’s Bridal is poised to gain market share during the current economic conditions. At the chain, where women sift through racks of plastic-wrapped gowns, the average dress goes for $550, which is slightly more than half of the average cost of a wedding gown overall.

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