How David's Bridal went from bridal-dress domination to the 'Walmart of weddings' and its second bankruptcy filing in 5 years

·5-min read
Person walks by exterior of David's Bridal store
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • David's Bridal filed for bankruptcy for the second time in April, days after announcing it would lay off over 9,000 employees.

  • David's Bridal got its start as a single boutique in Florida and grew to be the largest bridal retailer in the US.

  • Here's how the company evolved since its founding in 1950 before struggling amid a changing bridal industry.

David's Bridal was founded by David Reisberg in 1950 as a single bridal shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The company was later purchased and expanded under new owners, Philip Youtie and Steven Erlbaum.

david's bridal
James A. Finley/AP Photo

Source: AP, Philadelphia Business Journal

In its early years, David's Bridal operated both boutiques and wedding dress warehouses where a bride could get a designer-like wedding dress on the cheap. "We get people who are getting married in two weeks and just don't have the time for all of that," Youtie told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1991.

Woman looks through wedding gowns on racks at David's Bridal store
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel

The formula worked. By 1999, David's Bridal employed 1,445 people, operated 80 stores in 30 states, and had reported more than $132 million in sales. The company filed for an initial public offering the same year.

David's Bridal

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal

By 2000, David's Bridal was the nation's largest bridal retailer and had caught the attention of May Department Stores, then the parent company of Lord & Taylor. May bought David's Bridal for $436 million as part of a bid to expand its bridal registry business.

david's bridal 2013
The entrance to a David's Bridal store in Orlando, Florida, in 2018.John Raoux/AP Images

Source: The Wall Street Journal

May later merged with Federated Department Stores — or, as we know it today, Macy's. In order to offload some of its debt, Federated put David's Bridal up for sale, and in 2006, investment firm Leonard Green & Partners bought it for $750 million.

Racks of wedding dresses hang inside David's Bridal store
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: Los Angeles Times

But the sale came at a time when the bridal industry was beginning to change. While David's Bridal offered some pricier gowns, it was known primarily for affordable wedding dresses, and the lower end of the bridal market had become saturated. Plus, high-end designers had started to launch their own couture bridal lines and brides were starting to spend thousands of dollars on their dream dress.

Woman wearing wedding dress and veil inside David's Bridal store surrounded by women
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Source: Los Angeles Times

So David's Bridal started chasing after higher-end brides. In 2010, famed bridal designer Vera Wang announced that she would design a collection of stylish but affordable gowns for David's Bridal. Prices started around $600 — by comparison, a typical Vera Wang wedding gown started around $4,000 at the time.

Scott Key David's Bridal with Vera Wang
Former David's Bridal CEO Scott Key with designer Vera Wang.Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Source: The Cut

In 2012, David's Bridal sold again, this time to private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The leveraged buyout valued the retailer at $1.05 billion, but saddled it with debt at a time when the wedding industry was changing rapidly.

Blurred person walks by wedding dress in David's Bridal store window
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Marriage rates were on the decline at the same time that gown shopping continued to evolve. Many brides were spending more than ever on their gowns — $1,564 on average by 2016 — or were opting to shop online at sites like ASOS, Reformation, and Anthropologie's BHLDN line.

Mannequin in wedding gown in front of rack of dresses at BHLDN
A BHLDN store in 2014.Patrick Whittemore/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times, Insider

Plus, whether accurate or not, David's Bridal had the reputation of "the Walmart of weddings," as Racked put it at the time. The 2010s bride was planning her wedding with the help of Pinterest and Instagram, which encouraged a more customized experience — one that didn't necessarily involve a cookie-cutter dress and a dozen matching bridesmaids dresses.

Bride and groom kiss under canopy during outdoor wedding ceremony with guests in background
Catherine Delahaye/Getty Images

Source: Racked, Washington Post

In 2018, David's Bridal filed for bankruptcy in an effort to offload some of its more than $400 million in debt and revamp the company in the face of those new competitors.

Person walks by exterior of David's Bridal store
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

But it emerged less than two months later with a significantly reduced debt load and new ownership — a group of lenders including Oaktree Capital Management.

Woman tries on wedding gown at David's Bridal store
Mary Altaffer/AP

Source: Los Angeles Times

Like other retailers, David's Bridal was impacted by the pandemic, which not only significantly curtailed weddings and other events like quinceañeras and proms, but also disrupted supply chains. The company was forced to move production amid overseas COVID lockdowns and use air freight to transport gowns when shipping lanes became clogged.

Close-up of wedding dresses from David's Bridal hanging on racks
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

And despite the 2022 wedding boom that followed, David's Bridal has struggled to keep costs down. In April, the company revealed that it would lay off 9,000 employees nationwide and, shortly after, filed for bankruptcy a second time. The company said it would still fulfill customers' orders as it looks to sell the company, but will shut down all of its stores if it can't find a new buyer.

Person walks by exterior of David's Bridal store
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: Insider, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

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