Driving home from the beach after a tasting of dishes for my daughter’s upcoming wedding dinner, the radio reported a well-known bridal store had abruptly closed leaving brides-to-be in a lurch. After a quick call to my daughter, I was thankful we were not among the thousands left high and dry.

Alfred Angelo closed all of its 61 bridal stores this summer as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate, rather than restructure, debt.

The 84-year-old Alfred Angelo brand was viewed as an affordable label and heavily advertised in bridal magazines. Their dresses could be found in more than 1,400 retailers worldwide.

Faced with pending wedding dates, thousands of brides-to-be and their loved ones were left scrambling to make sense of it all and to come up with a contingency plan. Considering the company’s filing revealed $50 million in debt, compared to $50,000 in assets, prospects are doubtful any bride will receive their dress or a refund.

Within 24 hours, dispatchers in San Antonio, Texas, received 911 calls regarding the store closures. And the bankruptcy attorney for the company received 7,300 emails.

Enterprising competitors, like the national chain David’s Bridal, saw a marketing opportunity and began offering discounts to panic-stricken customers with original branded Alfred Angelo receipts.

David’s Bridal took a rapid three-pronged approach that offers some good marketing examples of continuity of message and striking while the iron is hot.

Quick website change

David’s Bridal swapped out their homepage within 24 hours of their competitor’s closure. The revised text immediately appealed to customers and their needs:

“ATTENTION ALFRED ANGELO CUSTOMERS

“Impacted by Alfred Angelo’s store closures? We’re here to help.

“We know how much goes into planning a wedding and we want to ensure that everyone affected by this news can still have the day of their dreams. If you recently purchased an Alfred Angelo wedding dress or bridesmaid dress and did not receive it, we are offering a discount on a replacement dress of your choice.”

The page went on to offer a 30 percent discount on replacement wedding gowns and a 20% discount for bridesmaid dresses, along with a waiver of rush fees for alterations.

Twitter

The day after the Alfred Angelo store closures, David’s Bridal tweeted a message with a link that led to the updated homepage on their website.

Facebook

The company also scheduled a 4 a.m. Facebook post the day after the closures. It had the same language as the homepage and included a link to their website. Less than one week later, the post had been viewed by more than 2,400 people, shared 1,640 times, and garnered 594 comments.

Criticism

Some folks accused David’s Bridal of being opportunistic. However, they were in the minority. It’s important when a company receives criticism to remain professional. They did just that in this Twitter exchange:

Michael Hughes@videogamedev Jul 15

Replying to @davidsbridal

“Talked with a handful of upcoming brides. None want to do business with you. Felt other ways you could’ve helped. Felt tasteless PR grab”

David’s Bridal Cares@DB_Cares Jul 17

“We are so sorry to hear that you feel this way. If you need any assistance, please email us at DBCares@dbi.com

It’s important for businesses to keep a vigilant eye on their competitors. You never know when an opportunity will present itself to fill the gap.

Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield public relations and marketing consultant. She can be contacted through her website www.buschermarketing.com.

Outbrain