If you've got money, adore weddings and possess excellent diplomatic skills, you've got what it takes to run a bridal shop. Try your hand at the industry if you're a whiz at business, know where to get help sleuthing out bridal boutiques currently on the market and have sharp negotiation skills. Successfully buying a bridal shop involves time, money and good advisers.
Start by going to the Internet or consult with a business broker to get an idea of what's available on today's market. You may also find shops for sale on the websites of wedding-associated trade organizations that help their members sell their businesses. Based on your research, determine the range of prices being asked for bridal shops and analyze what you can expect to get in return for your investment, such as inventory, display furniture and fixtures, props and decor, marketing and advertising resources and, importantly, lists of brides who have been shop patrons and referrals or rented lists of potential customers.
Seek underwriting after you determine your budgetary limits for buying the business that looks like the best prospect to you and your accountant. Turn to banks, private funding sources, credit unions, family, your own resources or credit line. If you're female, investigate funding options open only to women launching their first solo enterprise. Put yourself in a good bargaining position by contacting multiple money sources so you're satisfied that you've found the best deal.
Ask for concessions from the owner if your gut tells you there's wiggle room. For example, if the shop needs a remodeled showroom, carpet replacement, computer system upgrades or other reasonable requests, ask if the owner would be willing to do the work for you as a condition of the sale or whether he or she will deduct from the selling price the amount of money you'll need to handle the upgrades. Make an offer on the shop you've chosen after your accountant has vetted the financials.
Invest time and patience when you negotiate the sale. This is the time to get picky about what the sales contract for the purchase will include. It's OK to start out by making a low offer. Most business people expect to haggle and the back and forth negotiations that spring from your first bid gives you an opportunity to ask for additional information about everything from the building's structure to guarantees that occupancy and business permits and licenses are valid and binding. This is the time to make certain that the shop has no sanctions imposed on it by fire or government officials and that there are no liens or other legal constraints on the shop. Finally, don't sign the contract until you are assured of getting introductions to vendors with whom the bridal shop has been dealing over the years.
Obtain as much information on clients, marketing, sales, public relations, print, Internet and co-op advertising practices as you can before you sign on the dotted line. Ask the former owner if you can use their shop name when you promote your new ownership once the closing takes place. You'll want to stress continuity when you open your shop under its new name by including it in all of your communications until the new name becomes familiar.
See if you can convince the former owner to stick around for a month or so after the sale takes place. If you're business-savvy, you already know that shadowing someone who has been in charge of an enterprise will double your learning curve and lessen the time it takes to understand all of the nuances of the business. Another great reason to get the old owner to hang around is to observe them in action. You'll learn things you never thought about and discover actions and practices that you'll make a mental note never to replicate.
Make life easy by retaining as much staff, bookkeeping systems and policies as possible. Use the list of trade associates the former owner gave you to schedule an open house to which bakers, stationers, travel agents, hairdressers, caterers, tuxedo stores, florists, jewelers and other vendors in the wedding business will be invited. If your community is particularly large, hold several events so you have an opportunity to talk with your guests. Your open house will give you the opportunity to meet people in a position to increase your business.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.