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Tilly Mint Weddings in Fleet back in business

PUBLISHED: 11:42 05 February 2015 | UPDATED: 11:42 05 February 2015

Archant

It may be a billion pound industry but bridal boutiques are struggling to compete with the masses of cut-price dresses online. Fleet entrepreneur Victoria Eldred wants to change all that when she re-opens the doors of the much-loved, Tilly Mint Weddings

As a bride to be getting married in the county, hearing the news that a well known and respected bridal boutique had gone out of business sent shivers up my spine.

For anyone that has ever found their ‘dream dress’ you will know that to then have it ripped away from you when the store closes down is enough to have you cancelling the whole wedding. Ok, so I might be being a little dramatic, but when you invest in such an emotional purchase, all logical shopping mentality tends to go out of the window. You are, after all, spending the equivalent of two weeks in the sun for a gown you are going to wear for one single day.

The shop in question is the once-loved Tilly Mint Weddings in Fleet, a beautiful store with unique designers and some stunning dresses. In this instance, it appears the brides were all either reimbursed or continued to receive their dresses. But it does beg the question, what went wrong? From an outsider it looked like a no-brainer - a popular and successful boutique with a bright future ahead of it. Clearly all was not as it seemed! But was this down to bad business management, or are the brides of Hampshire turning their attentions to the World Wide Web, China, America and beyond?

In, what I can only imagine to be, a rare turn of events, Tilly Mint may have a future after all after 30-something local lady Victoria Eldred also saw the boutique’s potential; and has made the decision to re-open under the same name.

When I put my earlier question to her she explains: “As far as I’m aware Tilly Mint’s closure was not because it wasn’t a viable business. Unfortunately there have been quite a few wedding shop closures throughout the industry and I think that will always happen, but it depends on how you approach the business side of things.”

Having never been a bride before, Victoria is relying on her retail industry background and business acumen to restore Tilly Mint back to its former glory; quite the challenge for somebody who has no experience of the wedding industry. What she does have though, it seems, is huge amounts of determination as she tells me: “I have had to do an awful lot of research of the different designers and the different trends; speaking to the designers directly and gaining as much knowledge of the industry as I can. I have also visited a couple of other wedding shops to try and do some background research there too, which has been really helpful.”

With the UK wedding industry now purported to be worth a whopping £10 billion, Victoria’s slice of the pie could be substantial if she gets it right. With an already established brand, she may just be in with a chance as she explains: “Throughout the industry Tilly Mint is so well known. With everyone that I speak to, once I say where I am calling from they have immediately heard of us before. If I rang and said I was opening a new dress shop in Fleet, then I don’t think it would have had as much of an impact. This has got such a good name, everybody knows about it and I think it would be silly to change the name when I can just re-establish the positivity from before.”

With a love of fashion and a keen eye for good design, Victoria’s main focus over the past few months has been on getting her stock right. Having a good selection of gowns from reputable designers has got to be key to the boutique’s success as she agrees: “I want to bring a young, fun element to the boutique by stocking gowns that I love, and that I think other women will love too. Featured designers include Maria Senvo, who are a young, fashionable brand, Sassi Holford and Ivory & Co, which isn’t one that Tilly Mint had before, are a high end label without the high end costs.”

Cost does seem to be one of the explanations for the boutique’s previous troubles, with feedback from the local area being that Tilly Mint was perhaps a little too exclusive. When you can find replica designer dresses available online for a third of the price, many brides do not have the luxury of supporting bridal businesses here in the county. Something that Victoria is all too aware of: “I think previously the persona that the shop gave off was that it was out of reach for too many people when it came to the prices of the dresses. I’m trying to change that because I think everybody should have the opportunity to buy their wedding dress in a nice environment, and it shouldn’t matter how much you have got to spend. I’ve tried to keep a good variation of prices with gowns starting at £800 and going up to around £2,500 so that we appeal to everybody.”

With a new, open plan layout that allows the dresses to take centre stage, Victoria is confident that brides will welcome her more modern style of boutique. Tilly Mint’s doors opened last month with an opening offer of £100 worth of accessories with every dress purchased – a good start when it comes to winning over Hampshire’s brides.

It may be that you can save a huge chunk of your budget by ordering your dream dress from China but take it from somebody who knows, you can’t beat the experience that shopping in a local boutique can give. For such a special day, and such a special gown, I urge you to find a way to cut back on other parts of your budget and don’t miss out on the best bit…trying them all on!

Many boutiques around the county have sample sales throughout the year so sign up to their newsletters to make sure that you are first in line when it comes to grabbing a bargain.

Find out more about Tilly Mint at www.tillymintweddings.co.uk

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