'Should I be charging for my appointments?' is a question I am hearing more and more frequently. It has became a regular discussion point for nearly every demo I do and I felt it may be useful to share some of the insights I have gained from talking to so many boutiques about this matter.
There are several reasons why it might be a good idea to charge for appointments.
- It reduced no shows. There is nothing worse that one of your Saturday prime time slots cancelling at the last minute or just not showing up at all. Having to make a financial commitment when booking an appointment will make anyone seriously consider if they will be attending before they book.
- It cuts out time wasters. Brides who have no date booked but plan to get married in 3-5 years time are much less likely to purchase than a bride who's wedding is booked in 18 months time. A bride is less likely to spend money on an appointment if she isn't ready to be serious about committing to a dress.
- It reduces those who book an appointment for a nice day out. I know of several towns where there are multiple boutiques and brides would book appointments at all of them and have a day out with their bride squad. Having a charge in place means the brides really have to think about the styles and designers they are actually interested in before booking.
- Some costs are covered if you do end up with a last minute cancellation. By charging for the appointment you can at least cover the costs of heating, rent and staff wages for the wasted appointment times.
- You can offer a unique service, attracting more brides to your store. You could offer a package in return for the appointment charge such as a VIP appointment, fizz & cakes or invite the full bridal squad! You may be surprised how much brides would be willing to pay to hire the boutique out exclusively.
Some of the common concerns around starting to charge for appointments that I tend to hear are:
'None of the other Bridal Boutiques in my local area are charging'
'It could put people off booking an appointment and some of those may have converted to sales'
'It could lead to higher expectations from the customer and possibly negative reviews'
'People might be angry that they have to pay to browse a shop'
Of course there is no right answer and it very much is a matter of personal preference and what you believe will work well for your business.
That being said, my personal opinion is that charging for an appointment is becoming the industry standard and it could be a really good move for your store. I have heard so many success cases where full Saturdays have previously been lost to no shows or time wasters and then as soon as an appointment fee has been introduced stores are getting days of 100% attendance and conversions.
In this day and age I would expect to pay a charge for appointments in other industries such as going to the Dentist or for a hair appointment. I would expect to lose some of that deposit in the event I cancelled last minute, in-fact this did happen last year. I paid a £50 deposit for a hair appointment I could not attend on the day due to unexpected illness. There is no reason why the bridal industry should be any different.
Bridal Boutiques are not like other retail businesses, customers rarely walk in off the street and it is likely your brides will have 1:1 attention from yourself or your staff for the full time they are in the boutique. In many cases they may have exclusive use of the boutique, and refreshments are normally provided for the full party. This is a high level of service and it is not unreasonable to expect someone to pay for this service even if no purchase is made.
Your brides will not stop booking appointments if you charge, they will still want to attend due to the fantastic service you offer and brands you stock. If you are nervous about introducing a fee you could start by charging for Saturday appointments only. You could also soften the blow by offering to deduct the cost of the appointment fee off any dress they purchase or you could gather the customers card details at the time of booking but only actually apply the charge if they don't attend, so no money has physically been paid if they do attend.
Mybridal offers you the flexibility to charge for whatever appointments you would like using our integration with Stripe. This means you can select what appointment types you want to charge for and choose to charge different amounts for each one. You can choose if you want the charge to actually be taken at the time of booking or if you just want a hold to be taken on a customers card to them be applied later in the event of no show or short notice cancellation.
Click here to read more about how to set up charging for appointments.
Roughly £20-30 seems to be the average amount to charge for a Bridal Appointment. Why not give it a try and see what happens, it is a simple as clicking a button to turn charges back off again if you are not happy.