A survey has shown that brands need to be opening up new markets and adapting their offering to the Millennial generation

China, the USA and Spain become the world’s bridal fashion powerhouses

The global bridal fashion market has concentrated in three main production areas: China and the USA, which account for the bulk of global production in absolute figures, while Spain is the second-biggest exporter after the Asian giant. According to a survey commissioned by Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, the future challenges facing manufacturers and retailers in the sector are opening up new markets and adapting to the demands of the Millennial generation, which will be setting the trends in the bridal universe over the next few years.

These are the conclusions of the survey entitled ‘Millennial Brides: Born in the 1980s, Getting Married Today’, commissioned by Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week and conducted by IESE Business School professor José Luis Nueno, an expert in the fashion industry with a PhD from Harvard.

According to this report, China is the world’s biggest producer of wedding dresses with 10.6 million units, of which 72% are intended for export. China is followed by Vietnam and the United States, which is the third biggest manufacturer of wedding dresses, producing some 1.8 million units.

Spain, with an annual turnover of around 1,300 million euros, of which exports account for 41%, creates 755,000 bridal gowns every year. This fact makes it the only Western country with a production surplus compared to domestic consumption, and for this reason it is the second biggest exporter in the world after China.

At present, Spanish products enjoy a particularly high rating abroad, where the ‘Made in Spain’ design and quality continues to garner great acclaim. The presence of Spanish brands around the world is concentrated mainly in Europe (77%), followed by Asian countries, the USA, Latin America and the Middle East. In their internationalisation processes, operators choose in 91% of cases to distribute their products through department stores.

With regard to domestic consumption, every market in the world has suffered as a result of the economic crisis apart from Latin America, China and the UAE. The crisis has led not only to a drop in the actual number of weddings – something particularly noticeable in European countries such as Spain, Italy and, to a lesser extent, France – but also to overall expenditure on the event itself.

The markets of the future
Demographic changes and new consumer habits point to the fact that by 2020 the countries with the biggest purchasing potential for bridal fashion products will be Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia) followed by the USA and finally Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.

According to the results of the survey, the forecasts for global sales of wedding dresses for 2020 are positive: Mexico and the USA are the countries with the greatest potential for growth, with rates of 3.6% and 3.5% respectively, as a result of the upsurge in the number of weddings and the average spend per wedding. The USA remains the largest market and the one with the best prospects among Western nations, with a growth rate of 2.6%; while in the Eurozone, Germany will head the market and the UK will experience mild growth as a result of an increase in the average spend. In Spain, even though the number of weddings will drop due to demographic reasons, expenditure in 2020 will reach or even surpass the pre-recession levels of 2006, reaching 1,729 euros for the wedding dress.

Furthermore, if we make a demographic analysis by dividing the planet into zones, the first being the ‘northern’ zone made up of the 1,048 million inhabitants of Europe, North America, Australia and the Far East, and a second ‘southern’ zone comprising the other 6,229 million inhabitants, the difference is quite evident: today, for every person of marriageable age in the northern hemisphere, there are eight in the southern hemisphere, and by 2030 the ratio will be 1:9.

Not without my wedding dress!
Another piece of good news for the sector is the way expenditure on weddings has changed: while it is true that the number of weddings has dropped, especially in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and to a lesser extent France, it should be noted that the cutback on the average spend a wedding dress is less than that on other elements of the wedding event. This means that while brides from the Millennial generation are ruling out huge gatherings or other high-cost elements of the celebration, they are not willing to cut back when it comes to the way they look on the most important day of their lives, and in this respect the wedding dress is still an absolute priority. Between 2005 and 2007, mature Western markets reached a peak in terms of expenditure on weddings, but following the crisis, in the last few years, they have started showing a significant recovery.

Millennials are busy, demanding and connected
People born between 1980 and 2000 make up the Millennial generation that will comprise the biggest group of potential brides between 2016 and 2030. We know how many there are and where they live, but what are their qualitative traits? As professor José Luis Nueno underlines, ‘the Millennial bride is the first digital bride and this is changing the way they buy wedding dresses, so potential points of interaction with future brides have multiplied.’ This means that the shopping trip no longer starts with a trawl of physical stores but rather the websites, apps and blogs of Google, Instagram and Pinterest.

Brands and retailers are having to adapt to this new situation by broadening their scope of action: for this reason, taking a multi-channel approach is imperative today. However, the European Millennial bride, and particularly the Mediterranean bride, only uses the internet for information purposes, because when it comes to the actual purchase, the offline in-store experience prevails and in this sense will become even stronger as the final and most important step in the process. However, these consumer habits are coexisting with other new trends: in the USA, for example, there is a move towards online sales of ‘low cost’ wedding dresses while in Japan the trend is to hire the full bridal outfit.

However, generally speaking the Millennials go for prêt-à-couture with customised adaptations to the original model created by the designer. Bespoke, exclusive dresses are increasingly highly rated by the brides of this generation who continue to appreciate design and quality wherever they are in the world. Brides are also much busier these days, so the figure of wedding planner, as a key influencer, is one of the trends of the future, along with buying more than one outfit for the ceremony, an upsurge in special sizes, and wedding tourism.

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