Todd Cassidy, founder and CEO of bridal retailer WED2B talks about the company’s beginnings, their first store in Bristol and their plans for the future.
Can you give readers some background on WED2B?
WED2B is the UK’s largest and fastest growing bridal retailer. We originally formed the company in 2009 as the Wedding Dress Factory Outlet with the simple principles of great value, lots of choice and amazing customer service.
We established the first three stores, developed the business model, and in 2014 sought investment to expand the company across the UK. In 2015, we re-branded to WED2B with a fresher and more modern offering, and after setting up a central distribution centre and head office, we began opening stores at an increased rate.
We currently have 21 stores, with more set to open in 2017 as we look to establish a nationwide network and bring our offering closer to every bride.
Why did you choose to open a store in Bristol?
Bristol has always been very high on our list of target locations and has a fantastic retail offering that we wanted to be a part of. We have great retail experience within our management team and their knowledge of previous store performance in this region gave us additional insight about the potential.
What is your current footprint and plan for the South West?
We currently have three stores in the South West, with Bristol in the Galleries Shopping Centre, Exeter located on Haven Road in Exeter Quay, and Swindon on Edgeware Road. We are also planning to open a store in nearby Cardiff later this year.
What has been your biggest achievement at WED2B?
Our biggest achievement was securing private equity investment in 2014 from British investor Javad Marandi, who shared our growth vision, and whose contribution and support has been invaluable. The investment allowed us to accelerate the expansion of the store network and establish a robust infrastructure to support the growing business.
Can you elaborate on your business model?
Every one of our bridal stores across the country features an extensive range of competitively priced, UK-designed wedding and bridesmaid dresses to try on in the comfort of an informal, friendly environment. All dresses are available off-the-peg, so brides to be can take their dream dress home on the same day.
How competitive is the wedding retail environment?
There are approximately 3,000 independent bridal boutiques in the UK, so there is a significant amount of competition in the wedding retail market. There are dozens of bridal shops opening and closing each year and there is no indication that this dynamic is likely to change.
How did you go about financing the operation?
The banks had offered limited support during this initial growth with two small EFG loans but had no appetite for further lending, despite very strong financials. It was a very frustrating time as we were very confident that our business model would work, but we needed a more significant injection of capital to take the business to the next level.
At this point, we decided to approach a business intermediary, as we saw that private equity investment was needed to maintain the pace of growth and continue to respond to the demand that we knew existed.
We were hoping to find someone who would share our vision and see the investment opportunity. Fortunately, our business details were forwarded to Javad Marandi and after a period of due diligence, we secured the investment and a fantastic business partner.
How are peoples’ attitudes towards their wedding day changing?
The main shift in attitude is towards wedding day expenditure and it’s a similar story to mainstream high street retail, where we find the bragging rights of consumers have switched from ‘how much they have spent’ to ‘how much they have saved’.
Our offering most definitely plays to this sentiment, with the highest quality gowns that would ordinarily retail for an industry average of over £1,000 being available in all our stores from £99 to £599.