THE KNOT SET TO OFFER FIVE EUROPEAN WEDDING WEB SITES

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — The Knot is partnering with Gerard Bedouk Holding, a European wedding media company, in a bid to launch five wedding Web sites in the European Community.
The first site is slated to open in France in July, with the other wedding destinations scheduled to bow in four additional countries in the E.C. — including markets in the U.K. and Germany — during the next 12 months, under a memorandum of understanding signed by The Knot and GBH.
The deal, announced Tuesday, will extend The Knot’s brand to European cybershoppers, and comes just six weeks after The Knot, based here, acquired Weddingpages Inc., a provider of wedding content in local U.S. markets, both online and in regional magazines.
“With its multimedia approach to the wedding business, GBH is the perfect partner for us to expand our brand into the European Community,” said David Liu, The Knot’s chief executive officer. “By joining forces with GBH, we will bring The Knot to the European to-be-wed market, estimated to be approximately 2 million couples.”
That is roughly the same size as the to-be-wed market in the U.S. each year, Liu pointed out.
The joint venture between The Knot and GBH also closely follows the marriage of The Wedding Channel with Della.com on April 24, a merger, as noted, that combined Wedding Channel’s content with Della’s gift registry and roster of e-tail partners, such as Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Gump’s, REI, Restoration Hardware, Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel.
Web watchers noted The Knot may be facing a dilemma common to e-commerce sites that aim at a vertical market, like the wedding business: whether to pursue an increasingly crowded U.S. Internet sector, or to pursue a less developed one in Europe.
According to Liu, however, The Knot has been working to establish a “global presence” since early this year. “When we went public [Dec. 2, 1999], we said we’d leverage our investment on technology in the U.S. by expanding into the global marketplace,” Liu said Wednesday. “We’ve also been looking for strategic partners in South America and Asia.”
GBH publishes three consumer wedding magazines, Mariee in France, and Wedding Dresses in the U.K. and U.S., as well as a bimonthly trade title, Wedding Trends and News, which is distributed in 10 European countries, and it produces two annual wedding shows in Paris. They are the consumer show, Mariee & Marie, and the national French trade show, Mode & Marriage.
GBH will heavily promote the joint venture through its magazines and bridal shows, while building a presence online.
The European sites will feature The Knot’s interactive planning tools, bridal gown search engine and editorial content.
In a statement, Gerard Bedouk, chief executive officer of GBH, said, “The Knot’s aggressive brand-building initiatives are completely in line with our own strategy to be the full-service solution for brides and grooms in Europe.”
As for The Knot’s positioning in the U.S., Ken Cassar, retail analyst at Jupiter Communications, noted, “The Knot’s acquisition of Weddingpages, a couple of months ago, was a huge move, but it didn’t receive much media attention. There is a market in wedding gifts — Della’s target — but there’s a lot more money to be made from the event itself.”
And The Knot got some leverage in that arena, Cassar said, with its $8.5 million cash purchase of Weddingpages, which has provided information and services to eight million brides and grooms in the U.S. “Weddingpages has pretty strong relationships with merchants in local markets, which affords The Knot’s users access to services such as a florist in Toledo, Ohio, and brings The Knot itself a potential stream of advertising revenue from the Weddingpages’ affiliates.
The U.S. comprises an estimated $45 billion wedding market in which Americans spend an average of $20,000 on the event, and 300 hours preparing for the occasion.