Spanish bridal fashion strides boldly around the world. With a turnover of 860 million euros and its status as the second-largest exporting country behind China, it is reaffirming its role as a global benchmark. Even so, internationalisation and the full implementation of online and experiential strategies will be key to the success of brands in view of the shrinking internal market and their inevitable adaptation to Millennials brides and the arrival of Gen Z. These are some of the conclusions of the study titled Millennial and Gen Z Brides written by IESE professor José Luis Nueno at the request of Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week.
With a global turnover of 860 million euros, the bridal dress industry is confirming its undeniable importance in Spain. If we add to this figure the volume of all the accessories, evening dresses and footwear, the overall turnover of Spanish bridal companies totals 1.35 billion euros, 105 million more than in 2016.
The bridal dress industry with a network of 730 companies ranging from large firms to small artisan workshops, employs more than 13,400 people who produced 841,489 units in 2018, 11% more than in 2016. These are some of the results of the study titled Millennial and Gen Z brides: the bridal fashion industry in 2020, which provides an update of the data in Millennial brides: born in the 1980s, marrying today published in 2016, both written by IESE professor José Luis Nueno, doctor in Business Administration from Harvard University, at the request of VBBFW.
An exporting industry
Spain is the only western country with production higher than internal demand (which didn’t exceed 172,000 units in 2018), becoming the second largest exporter of bridal fashion behind China. In this regard, Spain exports one out of every five units, compared to a figure of one in three for the Asian giant’s market. Exports thus constitute 74% of the total.
Catalonia, with a 41% share of the Spanish business volume, is traditionally the main promoter and expert in the search for new business channels abroad; in fact, it exports 76% of its production of wedding dresses and has increased its sales in markets like the United States (+12%), China (+30%) and some Eastern European countries over the last year, achieving a turnover of 236 million euros.
Meanwhile, Europe produced 1,872,382 units in 2018 and, with the exception of Spain, which alone accounts for 49% of all European production, the rest of the continent underwent a market slowdown, particularly significant in the case of Italy, followed to a lesser extent by France, contrasting with the positive evolution of the German market, which boasts a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) standing at 4%. As for the United Kingdom, it remains stable with an upward trend until 2023.
In global terms, China is the largest producer of wedding dresses, exporting one out of every three of its 12.2 million units manufactured each year. Vietnam is in second place in the ranking with 2.5 million dresses and, in third place, lies the United States, which produces 2.2 million dresses.
Although the United States is the second country behind China in terms of the number of weddings, it will continue to be the largest market. For its part, the Asian giant lies second in the ranking of the most sought-after markets in the world due to the 11.5 million weddings held in 2018 and, although only 8% of brides dress in the western style, they continue to constitute a target with sales potential totalling 920,000 dresses. Thus, although the forecasts indicate that the number of weddings will fall to 10.8 million by 2023, China is establishing itself as one of the most attractive destinations for brands seeking to expand outside the traditional mature markets, owing to its large size.
In addition to the United States and China, other countries, due to their demographies and the number of weddings, are especially interesting and confirm their positive evolution; these include Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia and Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, where brides with high purchasing power prefer high-end Western dresses and are willing to pay high prices. Europe, Germany and the UK maintain positive performances and, together with Italy, remain attractive countries for the Spanish exporting brands, especially in the case of mid-high segment dresses.
Experiences, personalisation and continuous activation
They’re digital natives in terms of their use of their computers, smartphones and tablets and they’ll feature in the bridal universe in 2030; they’re the young people from Gen Z, born since 1995. They currently account for just 6% of weddings, but their form of consumption is already changing the rules; Gen Z displays consumption patterns and social relationships that have evolved with respect to those of the first Millennials, further accentuating the need for access to the network, connection and use. Thus, the new generations of brides will demand more experiences and personalisation than ever before and a constant relationship with the brand throughout the purchase process.
In fact, consumer priorities are changing rapidly; in 1985, products accounted for 64% of purchases, while experiences (services, experiences, experiential products, leisure, etc.) accounted for 36%. By 2030, products are expected to account for 52% and experiences 48%.
Thus, with the arrival of young Gen Z women in the market, bridal fashion will be obliged to continue with the transformation of the customer journey and the shopping experience, regarding each bride as a unique process that will require personalized digital and creative experiences tailored to her.
Furthermore, maintaining a constant relationship with the customer by means of online strategies and the application of the latest technologies will be absolutely essential, because the traditional store, states professor José Luís Nueno: “will be transformed by incorporating video walls, digital signage, beacons and smart mirrors to adapt to the new needs and omni-channel behaviour typical of the latest generations of buyers”.