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While the rest of the retail industry races to modernize and adapt to the modern consumer, the bridal industry is taking its sweet time.
For most brides-to-be, pain points like murky pricing and yearlong wait times come standard, especially when it comes to the dress. Shopping for bridal gowns is a long-standing tradition involving the bride, a posse of friends and family, an hour in a showroom, and enough champagne to keep everyone optimistic.
But for Jackie Courtney, something about that process didn’t feel right.
“What inspired me was my own wedding,” said Courtney. “I was working as a publicist at the time, and we loaned dresses to people all the time. So when I got engaged, it was like, ‘Well, why can’t that be for me?'”
She began reaching out to editors for samples and eventually started scouring peer-to-peer marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay, convincing women from around the country that she had an idea worth investing in: wedding gown resale. Finally, with a collection of 50 high-end used bridal gowns, Nearly Newlywed was born.
Since the launch of her e-commerce platform nearly seven years ago, Courtney has expanded into fine jewelry, accessories and other wedding-themed items. For her, this is only the beginning of a bridal revolution, which she expects to ramp up in the coming years.
“I like to say that bridal is going to be the new beauty in a couple years, because it’s been helmed by these big companies for a long time and that’s starting to be pushed.”
On this week’s episode of The Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Nearly Newlywed founder and CEO Jackie Courtney to discuss the need for modernization in the bridal industry, the normalization of resale and the expansion of her company into new categories. Edited highlights below.
Price transparency as a disruptor
“You can’t really buy many wedding dresses online. A lot of the time you just see dollar signs, like, ‘This Vera Wang dress is four dollar signs.’ But how much is it? I remember even shopping for my own dress, just being so intimidated going into Vera Wang. I knew they were expensive, but I had no idea. Then all of the sudden it’s, ‘Well, that’s $10,000 — surprise!’ So a big thing for us was: These dresses are online, and they ship to you in just a couple weeks, and this is how much they cost full-priced, and this is how much they cost discounted. Even just the transparency of saying how much a gown costs was semi-disruptive in this space. These things that are not that revolutionary in other spaces are still developing in bridal.”
Why the industry hasn’t had to evolve
“The biggest issue in this industry is that the customer changed a while ago. Men and women that were getting married were also changing their discover-and-purchase habits with things like Airbnb, Uber, Rent The Runway. It’s not like they didn’t want the same ease and affordability for their wedding; it just didn’t exist. Because the consumer sort of comes through the pipeline and then is finished, the industry hasn’t had to adapt as fast as others. If you talk to a woman going through the process, she’ll say, ‘It’s frustrating, and I don’t know what anything costs, and they’re telling me it’s going to take eight months to make my dress — but I did it, and now I’m done.’ Other industries are getting more pushback because the customer continues to participate.”
Creating a curated wedding experience
“We have a lot of women shopping on our platform now — we’ll actually have over 1 million this year, which we’re really excited about. But they were asking for more products — it was like, ‘We’re here, we’re shopping, we trust you — and it’s hard to find things on these crowded marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy; the product mix isn’t super developed or savvy.’ Those were the things that really informed our expansion outside wedding dresses. One of the great things about a wedding is all of the events that proceed it and happen after it — all these mini celebrations and connections with your friends and family. Whether it’s a shower or a bachelorette, or just something that’s cute and fun for you and your fiancé, you need products that facilitate these experiences, which are all part of the journey.”