L’Atelier Couture Bridal Boutique Benefits From Being Small

L’Atelier Couture Bridal Boutique Benefits From Being Small

Being a small business is an asset in the bridal space.

$1 million
2014 sales projection

$2,200
Starting price point

$3,500–$6,000
Average sale, including accessories

10
Designers carried

100
Styles

5
Employees (including owner)

7,000 sq. ft.
Showroom size

1st quarter
strongest sales quarter (annually)

90 percent gowns
10 percent accessories
sales breakdown

In the past few years, the market for high-end bridal gowns in the Twin Cities has shrunk considerably. Priscilla of Boston and Monique Lhuillier both shuttered their 50th & France locations in Edina, Neiman Marcus closed, and Macy’s Minneapolis bridal salon refocused on more affordable gowns. One might think there was no demand for designer wedding dresses in the Twin Cities.

Enter L’Atelier Couture Bridal Boutique. This salon in Minneapolis’ North Loop, which opened in 2007, is projecting 2014 will be its best year ever, with sales approaching $1 million. Well-to-do brides flock to L’Atelier for its roster of designers, including best-seller Vera Wang—and, since last year, Monique Lhuillier. The shop has exclusivity agreements with all its designers, so you won’t find these lines anywhere else in the Twin Cities. “It keeps me separate from my competitors,” says owner Amanda Kautt.

Kautt says low overhead allows her to flourish where others have failed. “I’m a small business; that’s what makes it work,” she says. Instead of long walk-in hours requiring lots of staff and lots of down time, she tightly manages expenses by focusing on appointments.

This allows each bride to receive high-touch customer service, with head-to-toe styling that often includes veils crafted on-site and custom-made jewelry. The experience is made even more exclusive by tracking social circles; Kautt says she won’t sell the same dress to a bride whose friend already wore that style. “It’s not like I’m looking to sell 500 of one dress,” she notes.

In the continuum of Twin Cities bridal shops, Kautt says the biggest differentiator for her store is price. “I know I’m marginalizing my reach because of my price points,” she says. But she’s found her niche. L’Atelier brides are generally 28 to 35 years old, are professionals established in their careers, and—if word of mouth is any indicator—are satisfied customers: Referrals are her No. 1 source of business.