Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations
Beautiful Weddings? – Aisle 6


November 7, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

A supermarket aisle becomes a wedding “go-to” stop, from nuts to cake.

6When we think of the grocery channel, we don’t traditionally con-sider it to be a bride’s first stop to plan her wedding.  That’s a shame, because today’s supermarket has most of the key ingredients needed to support the nuptials.  A bride-to-be’s wedding list usually includes a cake, flowers, wine and good food – items easily found in most grocery stores. It’s one-stop shopping for the happy couple, and high-margin business captured for the grocery store. So why aren’t more grocery stores targeting the wedding sector, and can they really compete with the high-end wedding market?  The answer is a resounding “yes!”  It’s a matter of focusing on a specific segment of the wedding market — one that’s growing by leaps and bounds.  Meet the frugal bride.

Frugal – or, in keeping with a simple lifestyle — is in right now.  After years of conspicuous consumption, consumers are starting to pass on superfluous “things” designed to impress others.  Many couples are marrying older than ever before.  The average age of the Canadian first-time bride is 27 with her groom typically closer to 30.  In many cases, the couples themselves are footing the bill, and with most starter homes costing around $300,000 – not starting the marriage in debt is often the goal.  The challenge for many couples arises when they look at the number of hours involved in planning a wedding.  Frugalbride.com estimates most couples spend 250 and 300 hours planning their wedding.  That’s almost two months of work based on a 40-hour work week!  More and more couples are hiring wedding planners to do the legwork for them.  According to Bakerycraft, a U.S.-based company supplying in-store bakeries with cake-making components, 33 per cent of couples hire a wedding planner.  Since time is money, many people feel the investment is worth it.  After all, two months of time is a huge chunk of your life.  But what about the 65 per cent of couples who can’t afford a wedding planner, or who want a smaller wedding?  They still face many hours of work to plan the big event, and it’s this segment where the opportunity for the supermarket sector resides.

Wedding cakes are high-margin business, and it’s a sector that’s going to grow.  Bakerycraft reports that the average wedding costs $20,000 US and as Echo Boomers (born from 1980 to 1995) hit their late 20s, they will begin to wed.  A little kitchen math shows us that this upward trend should begin in about two years’ time, peaking in 2018 when the pinnacle of the echo boomers (born in 1990) hits their late 20s.  Statistics Canada reports the number of Canadians getting divorced more than once is on the rise. They discovered that the number of marriage breakups involving people who have been divorced at least once tripled in three decades.  Bakerycraft confirms that 33 per cent of U.S. marriages involve those married before. A second (or third) time bride can be planning her wedding at any stage of life, and may have more unusual requests.  She probably still wants the benefits of a wedding planner without the cost. 

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The supermarket sector would be wise to consider targeting the “non-Martha Stewart Wedding” segment.  If you think about it, grocery often offers everything needed for the perfect, low-key wedding under one roof.  Many grocery stores have an in-store bakery, floral shop and wine boutique within their operation.  The bakery can help create a centrepiece cake or a cutting cake, and any other menu items.  The floral shop can build on the colour theme, and create a floral story to complement the cake and menu.  The wine boutique can recommend the perfect wine to pair with the menu.  Wine boutique employees have had extensive training on food and wine pairings, and some of them are even sommeliers.  Deli items can provide items for the main course or snack table later in the evening.  Many of today’s superstores have a photo studio on site with a professional photographer who often moonlights on the side photographing weddings.  Could it get any easier than this?  The elements are there, but how best to bring them together and promote them?

It’s best to begin by pulling the services together in one promotional piece.  Make sure there is a nice book of wedding cake concepts complete with glamour shots.  Bakerycraft reports that the majority of brides will choose the first cake shown in the concept book.  Consider creating the position of “in-house wedding planner.”  Couples will appreciate having one point person on site who can bring the bakery, florist, wine shop and photographer together, and it will make it easier for the grocery store to have a project manager for these events.  Some progressive stores in the U.S. are already doing this, and one retailer promoted the service by hiring a couple to walk the store dressed as a bride and groom one busy Saturday handing out brochures.  You can imagine the buzz this created!  If you have a seminar room, offer one on planning a wedding with the baker, florist and wine expert all presenting their area of expertise. Leverage your corporate website to promote the service.  Bakerycraft reports that 88 per cent of brides conduct their research online, so a mention of the service in the electronic newsletter your head office sends to their vast e-mail list will be a great bump. Consider exhibiting in some local wedding shows.  It would probably be a good idea to have a microsite created for your store’s wedding program, and to link it to the corporate website.  Let the customers e-mail you directly with an easy “contact us” button.

Today’s grocery store has evolved from “retail shop” to “community centre,” and developing a suite of services to target the wedding sector is the next logical step in this evolution.  It gives the phrase — “walking down the aisle” — a whole new twist.v

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at: 
briseboismichelle@sympatico.ca.