Interview with Nordstrom's Bridal Director, Andrea WassermanMonday, September 17, 2012
Today, I'm featuring an interview with Andrea Wasserman, the National Bridal Director for Nordstrom. I first became familiar with Andrea and her work at the iconic department store through Twitter. She consistently shares smart insights into retail and business trends, and I appreciate that she looks to sources outside the wedding industry to stay on top of her game. I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about how she and her team approach weddings for a store famous for its customer service.
For people who may not be familiar with you, will you share a bit about what you do and your role in the wedding industry?I'm the National Bridal Director for Nordstrom. We have Wedding Suites in 18 Nordstrom stores, as well as at NordstromWeddings.com. At Nordstrom, our Wedding Stylists' goal is to help our brides find the best head-to-toe looks for herself, her groom and everyone in her wedding party - not just for the wedding day itself, but from the engagement party all the way through the honeymoon. My team works with our Nordstrom colleagues in every merchandise division to help identify the styles our bride wants, and then we help our Wedding Stylists prepare to serve their brides.
How did you get started in the fashion and retail space? What was your evolution to your role at Nordstrom?I've been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember, but it took me a while to figure out what role I wanted to play in the retail industry. I started out covering retail in the financial services industry, and eventually joined Nordstrom's strategy team. I loved - and still love - strategy, but ultimately realized that I wanted to be closer to our customer and our salespeople. I got some experience in buying and selling and am grateful to have landed in my current role, which combines so many functions that I enjoy.
You travel all the time. What is the sense you get about the state of weddings from the different brides your stores across the country work with every day?The biggest theme we see is one of individuality and independence. Today's brides (and grooms, who are increasingly involved) want a wedding that reflects their lifestyle and the life they intend to lead. Mom continues to be a big part of dress shopping, but so many elements of the modern wedding are driven by the couple and are ideas Mom wouldn't have dreamed of. From a fashion perspective, we're seeing the infusion of more trend-driven styles (even if it's a piece of jewelry or a shoe, rather than the dress itself) and more brides preparing for destination weddings, where they can truly make the entire experience their own.
You are in a unique position because you have to be able to forecast trends that will not only be on trend, but will also sell multiple quantities. What are some of the things you look for when trend spotting?We think it's important to give our bride options. For some brides, it's all about the gown and they want to special order something over-the-top and really splurge on it. Others would rather choose a gown that's in stock today and invest in statement shoes or jewelry they'll treasure wearing in the future. So we look for a range of style and price options in every category. We also know that a big consideration in any bridal purchase is timelessness - no one wants to look at her wedding pictures with regret! So we search for bridal fashion that incorporates a trend without being overtaken by it. It has to be wearable for the average woman, especially since a flattering look often is the number one priority.
Keeping individual Wedding Stylists around the country motivated about the bigger picture can be challenging. As a leader, what are some of the ways you've found to keep service and passion levels up among your team?I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by the Wedding Suite team we have at Nordstrom. Some of my proudest moments are when Wedding Stylists are invited to their brides' weddings - they've just become that close leading up to the wedding! We talk about these examples as what we have the potential to create in our jobs. We talk a lot about how important a bride's wedding is and, unfortunately, how stressful wedding planning can be. Our stylists want to do the right thing and be there for their brides in any way they can. For my part, I try to make sure the stylists know that those of us supporting them in Seattle (where Nordtrom headquarters are) are here to help them live up to brides' expectations. We stay in close touch with the teams in each store and ask for their feedback and ideas - they're the most important people because they work with our brides day in and day out.
I love that you once brought your iPad to bridal market and had models walk up to it so that your associate buyer could see the dresses via Facetime. In what other ways does technology and digital media play a role in your strategy?Thank you, I loved having Molly "virtually" with me! It's important for people to be included, even when they can't be physically present. The example you give is one where I wanted to involve a team member, but we actually use Facetime in our Wedding Suites to help brides share their shopping experience with bridesmaids or parents who may be out-of-state. In a couple of cases, we've even Skyped our designers during an appointment so a bride could "meet" the designer of the gown she was ordering. Online, we use NordstromWeddings.com to show brides the dresses they'll be able to order if they come to a Wedding Suite and present inspiration with tools like our Bridal Style Guide, Bridesmaid Trend Guide and the Wedding Suite Blog.
Thanks, Andrea! You can follow Andrea on Twitter here and Nordstrom Weddings on Twitter here.
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