The wedding industry is a massive business despite the fact that fewer couples are tying the knot and the ones that do are waiting longer than ever. In 2019, the industry brought in a whopping $76 billion in the United States, and it’s only growing. From 2014 to 2019, the industry’s profits jumped 0.3%. That might not seem like a lot, but it is when you’re dealing with billions.
Whether you’re a sucker for love or you just want to make a quick buck in a very profitable industry, selling wedding dresses can be a lucrative option. Think of it this way: TLC wouldn’t have created their dress-finding reality series "Say Yes to the Dress" if people weren’t looking. On average, Americans spend about $33,300 on a wedding, with women spending around $1,500 on their dress. In some states, like New York, women shell out upward of $2,400.
If you want a piece of the wedding industry pie (or cake), it’s not that difficult to get started selling dresses. The first step is finding good wedding dress wholesalers to help you maximize profits with the highest-quality dresses possible.
Obtain a Wholesale License
Whether you call it a wholesale license, a seller’s permit, a state sales tax ID, a retail ID or any of the other commonly used names, you’re going to need to acquire a license to sell wedding gowns. Each state has different laws about who needs to obtain a seller’s permit, but typically, anyone who is selling or leasing tangible property must apply if they’re selling goods that would typically be subject to sales tax.
Though it depends on the state, you can typically apply for a seller’s permit through your state’s tax and fee administration. You’ll need to know your projected monthly sales, your projected monthly taxable sales and what products you will be selling before your permit can be granted.
Why Do I Need a Wholesale License?
A wholesale license is different than a federal tax ID number or business license. Yes, you’ll need those too once you launch your wedding dress business, but you won’t necessarily need those things to buy your stock. Not only is it illegal in some states to retail items without a wholesale license, but you might find it hard to buy wholesale wedding dresses without it.
Your seller’s permit will signal to wedding dress wholesalers that you’re not planning to buy their dresses for a cheaper price only to resell them at slightly more expensive wholesale prices in direct competition with that wholesaler. Wholesalers have records to prove they’re selling below retail cost just as you’ll have records to prove you’re selling it at retail cost. They may not sell to you without the proper permit because they won’t want to risk the competition.
Pick Your Niche
In order to start a wedding dress business, you’re going to need a wide range of different styles at a high quality. Try to find a niche in the industry that fits a specific type of bride. For example, BHLDN’s offerings are slanted toward bohemian brides, while Kleinfeld’s offerings are for more traditional brides, and David’s Bridal is for the bride on a budget.
Think: Why would someone buy a wedding dress from you versus any other company? The better you know your customers, the better you can help them.
Find Wedding Dress Wholesalers Online
There are a ton of wedding dress wholesalers online but be wary about which ones you use. While some, like Premium Bridal Factory and Brydealo, offer custom, designer-quality ranges, cheaper international wholesalers like Wish.com or Alibaba might falsely advertise the quality of their gowns. Always look at a sample before you start ordering dresses in multiple sizes.
Connect With Designers Directly
You can order your stock through traditional wedding dress wholesalers, but you can also deal directly with the designers and ask for a wholesale price. Many independent designers will gladly create a wholesale contract if you’re willing to regularly order from them.
You can search for independent designers on websites like Etsy, where craftspeople tend to sell their wares. You might also want to search Instagram, Pinterest and local boutiques. Most designers have contact information on their website.
Go to a Wedding Trade Show
Wedding trade shows are a big business. They don't just help hopeful brides find their vendors — they can help you find designer wedding dresses to buy wholesale. For example, wedding website The Knot hosts the Knot Couture Show every year, which connects designers to buyers (in this case, you’d be the buyer). A quick web search will likely turn up a number of wedding expos and trade shows in your area.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.