- Wedding apparel retailer Brideside announced that the company has shut down, according to a company email signed by co-founder and CEO Nicole Staple.
- The retailer, which sold online and through physical retail locations in Boston, Chicago, Charlotte and New York said that "with two-thirds of weddings cancelled in 2020 and an uncertain year ahead, our chapter has come to an end."
- Customers with questions about past or upcoming orders were instructed in the email to contact individual designers because the company is "no longer able to field inquiries."
Brideside was set to disrupt the wedding apparel industry. Then COVID-19 happened.
The company, which was launched by Sonali Lamba and Nicole Staple eight years ago, was built on the promise of making the boutique shopping experience "more convenient, stress-free and inspiring" and leveraged creative means of reaching its customer base. Shoppers could request fabric swatches to understand the look and feel of products, set up a virtual appointment, go to one of the company's showrooms or order bridesmaid dress samples to try on at home.
At press time, the company's homepage included a message that said, "We apologize. Brideside is not taking orders at this time."
The wedding industry was running into problems even prior to the pandemic. Bridal retailers saw a decline over the last few years as Americans delayed getting married and expenses like student debt siphoned off funds that could go to a large wedding.
Even large players in the space have hit major obstacles. David's Bridal filed for Chapter 11 in November 2018, then emerged from bankruptcy months later. Alfred Angelo abruptly filed for Chapter 7 the year before, leaving in its wake panicked brides that couldn't access the gowns they ordered when shops closed. Startup Vow to be Chic shuttered and even traditional retailers that experimented with bridal apparel like Gap's Weddington Way and J. Crew pulled out of the category.
When the pandemic hit the U.S., bridal retail had to quickly adapt. The category is based on a high-touch experience, and this spring, retailers in the space had to temporarily shut stores and apply creative solutions to reach their customer base. Many companies turned to technology as a means to keep in contact with brides and bridal parties even as potential customers decided to push out the date of their events or dramatically shrink the size of their weddings.
Wedding retail has, "been based on this really interactive, one-on-one experience, and that's historically the way bridal shopping has always been," Sonia Lapinsky, managing director in the retail practice at the global consulting firm AlixPartners, said in an interview with Retail Dive this summer. But, she said, that may change as the pandemic forces digital transformation and as technology accelerates.