Members of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists met in Coral Gables, Florida, to discuss marketing strategies with wedding industry experts, tour Coral Gables La Salle Cleaners owned by Joe and Jessica Lancaster, and elect officers. A highlight of the annual event, held in a different city each year, was the presentation of the fourth annual Jack Barth Memorial Award of Excellence. Initiated by Linda Stokes-Barth in remembrance of her late husband and his achievements in the drycleaning industry, the award recognizes a member of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists for advancement, promotion, and development of industry standards for wedding gown care and for outstanding contributions and service to the Association and its members.
Kermit Engh, president of the Association, presented the award to this year’s honoree, Dave Barker of Drycleaning by Dave in Calgary, Alberta. Barker is one of the original members of the Association, serves on the Board of Directors, and has convinced many, many of his friends in the business to join the Association, too. Last year Barker was named Canadian Industry Person of the Year by Fabricare Canada, and the magazine noted Barker still stands behind two important innovations he initiated in the 1970s, guaranteed dry cleaning and bridal salon service. Today Barker and his family together with 22 full- and part-time employees operate two plants, two satellite stores, and two routes. His special expertise is saving the day for heartbroken brides whose gowns have been badly treated by other operators. Barker’s daughter Candice, son-in-law Jeff Mills, both active in the business, and grandson Jaxon were on hand to applaud the award.
Featured speakers at the conference included Kimberly Crossland of TheSavvyCopyWriter.com, Josie Daga, CEO and founder of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, and Alan Berg, consultant and founder of the Wedding Industry Leaders Conference. Berg also delivered a presentation from Sonny Ganguly, chief marketing officer of WeddingWire.com.
Crossland, a niche marketing specialist, provided essential insight into the preservation market. 11% of brides plan to get their gown cleaned or preserved after the wedding, but 38% of brides are unsure about getting their gowns cleaned. “The key here is to convince the 38% that they don’t have to fear the gown cleaning or preservation process if they bring their gown to a Certified Wedding Gown Specialist,” said Crossland.
Daga, whose website currently lists more than 20,000 pre-owned wedding gowns, revealed eye-opening statistics on the huge percentage of brides interested in re-selling their wedding gowns and the potential market for cleaning these pre-owned wedding dresses before they are sold to a second bride. Daga said, “Of course, many of today’s brides are interested in making some money back on their wedding gown, but an even larger number love the idea that another bride will also feel as beautiful on her special day as they did.”
Playing on the 4Cs of shopping for a diamond, wedding marketing expert Berg showed Association members how to create a more engaging website that attracts brides. “The four aspects are color, content, confirmation, and a strong call to action,” said Berg, “ and you must make it easy for brides to do business with you, too.” Berg also reviewed samples of members’ other marketing materials.
Association members who spoke to the group included Malcolm MacGregor of Browns Cleaners and Tailors in Ottawa, Ontario, and Courtney Engh of Fashion Care and Omaha Lace in Omaha, Nebraska. MacGregor’s video featured a 113-year-old gown and hat he restored earlier this year. Engh shared a wide variety of custom marketing materials developed for her company.
Incoming members of the Board of Directors are Christa Hagearty of Dependable Cleaners in Boston, Massachusetts, Ed Longanecker of Iris City Cleaners and Laundering Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Sajid Veera of Door to Door Cleaners in Manhattan Beach, California, and Rhonda Wernick of Oakwood Cleaners in Nashville, Tennessee. Retiring members of the Board were Jan Bohn of Margaret’s Cleaners in San Diego, California, Margaret Butler of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Kite of Kite’s Cleaners in Fort Worth, Texas, and Tom Ustanik of Lansing Cleaners in Lansing, Illinois.
South African members Leema and Dudu Mofokeng of Legaci Drycleaning and Laundry Services in Pretoria came farthest to attend the conference. Representing Mexico were Magda Barrera and Roberta Padilla of Tintoreria Comet in Monterrey and Cristina and Arturo Nanes of Tintoreria Bosques in Mexico City.
Members of the Association, a not-for-profit trade group with members in the United States, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and Australia, specialize in gown cleaning and preservation. Each member honors the guarantee of every other member, which includes taking the gown out of the container and pressing it at no charge when the gown is to be worn again. For brides outside of market areas with local service, the Association offers AWGS Courier Service, which makes the Association’s trademarked gown preservations available via both telephone and Internet.
Members benefit from both trademarked logos and other promotions such as care labels in more than 70 designer gowns including couture designers Romona Keveza, Augusta Jones, Ines di Santo, Adele Wechsler, Rivini, and Matthew Christopher. The Association partners, too, with wedding media such as WeddingWire.com (affiliated with MarthaStewart.com, Brides.com, and Project Wedding), TheKnot.com, MyWedding.com, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, and MissNowMrs.com.
The Association’s MuseumCare™ ZeroCarbon™ preservations are Endorsed by the Association of Bridal Consultants, the professional organization dedicated to wedding professionals worldwide.
The Association also offers brides the safety and convenience of Destination Wedding Kits, which are designed to fit into the overhead space on airplanes. The kits make it easy for destination brides to carry their gowns with them through security and onto the airplane.
For more information about training and membership, call the Association office
at 800-501-5005 or go to www.WeddingGownSpecialists.com.