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The rise and fall of David's Bridal: The bridal-dress destination is looking for a comeback after its second bankruptcy

Person walks by exterior of David's Bridal store
David's Bridal filed for bankruptcy in April and was sold in July to Cion Investment Corp.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • David's Bridal filed for bankruptcy in April and was sold in July to Cion Investment Corp.

  • 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

david's bridal
James A. Finley/AP Photo

The company was later purchased and expanded under new owners, Philip Youtie and Steven Erlbaum.

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

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

"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.

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Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel

The formula worked. The company filed for an initial public offering in 1999.

David's Bridal
AP

By 1999, David's Bridal employed 1,445 people, operated 80 stores in 30 states, and had reported more than $132 million in sales.

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

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

May bought David's Bridal for $436 million as part of a bid to expand its bridal registry business.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

May later merged with Federated Department Stores — or, as we know it today, Macy's

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

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.

Source: Los Angeles Times

But the sale came at a time when the bridal industry was beginning to change

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

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.

Source: Los Angeles Times

So David's Bridal started chasing after higher-end brides

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

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.

Source: The Cut

In 2012, David's Bridal sold again, this time to private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice

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

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.

Source: The New York Times

Marriage rates were on the decline at the same time that gown shopping continued to evolve

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

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.

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

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

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.

Source: Racked, Washington Post, Insider

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

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

David's Bridal was forced to move production amid overseas Covid lockdowns and use air freight to transport gowns when shipping lanes became clogged.

The company committed to delivering on every order, CEO Jim Marcum told Insider in 2023. "We had dresses where we would put that unit back into production in a factory and 48 hours later had it on the belly of an airplane flying it into the customer," he said.

Source: The New York Times

Despite a projected 2022 wedding boom, David's Bridal saw a decline in demand and filed for bankruptcy for a second time

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

Although a 2021 WeddingWire report projected 2022 would be a big year for weddings, some businesses actually found the opposite.

"It wasn't a boom year for anybody in the industry," Marcum told Insider. "We had a phenomenal 2021. We were the only ones that had the inventory when all of a sudden they wanted to get married in the backyard. But what happened is that we got to the first quarter of 2022 and right after that, 2022 was soft."

In April, David's Bridal filed a WARN notice that it could lay off more than 9,000 employees nationwide and, shortly after, filed for bankruptcy a second time. The company said it would still fulfill customers' orders as it looked to sell the company.

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

In July, a bankruptcy judge approved the company's sale to Cion Investment Corp.

David's Bridal
AP

The sale was expected to keep about two-thirds of the chain's stores open. Marcum told Insider that the chain closed 100 stores, which represented about 7% of the company's store profitability.

Cion's takeover is expected to keep 195 stores open. David's Bridal didn't receive any cash from the deal, but Cion would pay part of the company's debt, Reuters reported.

Source: Insider, Reuters 

In January 2023, the company launched a wedding-planning platform and vendor marketplace, called Pearl by David's

a screenshot of the website for Pearl by David's
Screenshot/David's Bridal

The platform offers couples a one-stop for their planning needs with checklists, vision boards, registries, and a vendor marketplace.

Marcum told Insider that Pearl is different from other planning sites like The Knot and WeddingWire. "The Knot's value prop is the vendors," he said. "So when we designed Pearl, we took a really hard look at the economics of what we would charge a vendor to list. The majority of it is free. To us, it was about the ecosystem to offer the bride something that's of value."

Source: Insider

CEO Jim Marcum said the company is positioned to target mass America

David's Bridal CEO Jim Marcum sits on a green couch
Jim Marcum became the CEO of David's Bridal in 2019.Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins/Insider

"I don't think we could be better positioned than any retailer in this country for the segment we're in," Marcum told Insider. "If you really look at our dresses, you can't get the value, price proposition, or quality anywhere at our price points."

Source: Insider

Marcum is optimistic about the company's future

David's Bridal bridesmaid dresses
David's Bridal bridesmaid dressesDavid's Bridal

Signet Jewelers, a bellwether for the wedding industry, projected that engagement sales will need to grow 25% by 2026 to return to pre-pandemic levels.

"It takes about three years in the dating cycle to get to the engagement," Marcum told Insider. "They put out projections for the fourth quarter of 2023 — they think it's going to be robust and picking back up. And they've put out data projections for 2024. If those projections are halfway true, we feel very good."

Source: Insider, Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider