By  on August 23, 2013

LONDON — David’s Bridal is hearing bells in London, with plans to open its first outpost outside North America in October.

The 10,000-square-foot store will open at Westfield Stratford City, in east London, on Oct. 3, and will be a novelty in a city where wedding dresses are largely sold in small, by-appointment-only boutiques, through department stores or in mass-market high-street shops.

David’s, a vertically integrated business with a broad price range, is transporting its business model of buy-now, one-stop-shopping for the bride and her party, with shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Similar to the U.S., David’s will stock a variety of sizes so that customers can try on dresses that fit them, rather than struggle with samples.

Like the chain’s 300-plus units in the U.S. and Canada, the London store will invite customers either to drop in or to make an appointment. There will also be an on-site alterations service.

“The bells will be ringing at Westfield — and in Westminster,” said Brian Beitler, the retailer’s chief marketing officer during an interview at the Langham Hotel here. He was referring to the David’s tradition of asking brides-to-be to ring a bell and make a wish once they’ve found their dress.

“This is the best store we’ve built — truly a flagship,” Beitler said. “Our aim is to give brides the experience they deserve — with no compromises.” Beitler declined to give first-year sales projections, but said the London unit is set to be one of the retailer’s largest volume stores.

Beitler said the U.K. market is similar to the U.S., with a lot of independent shops, and that was the big reason behind David’s Bridal’s decision to plant its overseas flag first in Britain.

David’s also carries White by Vera Wang, the most recognized bridal designer in the U.K., and globally.

Caroline Flagler, senior vice president of strategic initiatives, said the store would have a “relaxed, celebratory feel, where women will be encouraged to bring their mothers and friends.”

By contrast, many of the smaller bridal shops in London operate out of small boutiques and discourage groups of women from attending appointments with the bride, put limits on how many dresses customers can try on, and will only see brides-to-be by appointment.

Beitler said Westfield is the beginning of a bigger project. “We know that eventually there will be multiple locations in London,” he said.

Westfield was the first choice, he added, because it offered the opportunity for a large store format, and because of its location and transport links. The store is located on the ground floor of the shopping mall, along the pedestrian “street” area, near John Lewis and Zara Home.

The ground floor will stock occasion wear, such as bridesmaid and prom dresses, while the first floor will be dedicated to bridal gowns. The two floors will be connected with a big circular staircase.

At opening, there will be 140 to 150 bridal styles on offer, including the store’s exclusive collections by Oleg Cassini, Galina Signature and White by Vera Wang, and David’s Bridal in-house designs. There will be more than 40 styles of bridesmaid dresses in 20 color varieties.

Prices will start at about 225 pounds, or $344 at current exchange, and at 675 pounds, or $1,031, for the Wang dresses.

David’s latest exclusive collection, Truly Zac Posen, is set to arrive in London in the early spring. Regarding the Posen deal, which was unveiled in WWD earlier this year, Beitler said it would fill an important market niche.

“We work hard to cater to the different needs and aesthetics of our clients. Zac Posen offers red-carpet glamour, which does not exist in the bridal market. Celebrities are setting the tone for evening and for bridal,” he said.

The London store launch will be accompanied by an ad campaign across digital and print platforms that will break in the run-up to the opening.

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