Nationwide, bridal is showing signs of strain. Saks closed 16 of its 18 bridal salons earlier this year due to a downturn in sales. Bridal outfitters Yolanda in Boston and Louise Blum in Houston are reportedly phasing out their businesses. Other boutiques are heavily discounting, offering trunk sales, or promising aggressively faster delivery in order to compete. Yet many of Suky’s peers seem to be weathering the downturn, though with adjustments. “My numbers certainly aren’t what they were in 2006,” says Saccomanno at Marlton’s Bridal Garden. “Girls are buying the $2,500 or $3,000 dresses more commonly, and the $5,000 dresses not as much — but they’re still buying. You adjust your business, you adjust your buying, and you’re fine.”
And at the Wedding Shoppe in Wayne, the boutique she purchased following her exit from Suky just weeks after Ranieri’s arrival, Pattie Lamantia says that while brides are browsing online, they’re not buying online. “They still want to actually shop,” she says. “They want to try on.”
By all measures, Ranieri’s Suky should have made it. But she says her prohibitive overhead precluded her from being nimble enough to adjust Suky’s business model. “So when my inventory was primarily over $3,000, I didn’t have the extra to start bringing in the lower end — the $2,000-to-$3,000 [dresses] — to readjust,” she says. “In hindsight, I should have gone in there and moved the store immediately.”
Last October, Ranieri negotiated a five-year lease for a lovely, though smaller, bi-level space in Haverford Square, where she planned to move Suky — only to back out a few weeks later, according to Charles Czworkowski, a director of the landlord company, S.W. Bajus. (Bajus says it’s still attempting to collect funds from Ranieri to make up for what it spent on construction to revamp the space to her specifications. Ranieri was surprised to hear this, adding that Bajus hasn’t contacted her.) In January, she moved the store from Ardmore back to its original Bryn Mawr location, where, fittingly, it came to die.
On July 2nd, it became official: Suky was gone. But Kye Williams-Waheed sees a silver dress lining. “When I heard the store was closing, I thought, ‘Suky, you must be smiling. You can be happy now that the brides are going to be happy,’” she says. “All she wanted was for her brides to be happy.”