Published on: April 8, 2011by Kevin Coupe
There may be fewer tension-inducing moments in a teenaged girl’s life than the weeks leading up to her prom. Getting a date, picking the dress, planning for the big night ... it all seems calculated to both create anxiety and lighten parents’ wallets.
I know this because I went with my daughter last weekend to help shop for a prom dress. She’d done some reconnoitering on her own, and I was there to to provide half the parental approval needed before an actual purchase could be made.
Now, I will tell you with total objectivity that she looked spectacular. In fact, that may not be a strong enough adjective. She looked so amazing that I’m considering various forms of advanced surveillance techniques for the actual night of the prom. (The good news along these lines is that she is a strong minded young lady, so much so that she didn’t wait to be invited by just any young man; she decided who she wanted to ask, and did so.)
What I did not know and had not even considered is the fact that the anxiety surrounding the dress does not end. Once the dress is bought, girls then spend a fair amount of time worrying about whether anyone else at the same prom will be wearing the same dress. (Boys, who wear tuxedos, have it much easier since it is pretty much guaranteed that they’re all going to look alike.)
This could be considered a problem. But for the retailer specializing in prom dresses that we patronized, it instead was an opportunity to create a differential advantage.
This store, A Step Ahead, keeps a long of everyone who buys prom dresses from it, and notes which dress they bought and what prom they are attending. And they guarantee that they will not sell duplicate dresses to girls going to the same prom. In doing so, this store has become the go-to store for most of the girls in the area. They love the selection, the service, and the emotional security of getting their prom dress there provides.
Let me tell you, this matters. The day we were there, the place was mobbed. And I suspect it is going to be that way throughout the spring. (I’m glad it was my last visit. I was the only male in the place, and I felt like an armadillo in the middle of the Westminster dog show.)
It is a good lesson in smart, relevant customer service.
There was a story in the Boston Herald the other day about how there is a website out there - Fashism.com - that allows girls to “post images of their chosen frock in the ‘Got Dibs’ section of the fashion advice blog. It merges with users’ high school networks on Facebook to ensure that no two classmates show up to prom in the same gown.” And that also is a smart idea.
It may not seem like much to those of us for whom the prom is but a distant memory, but to the target customer, this is a big deal. In fact, an Eye-Opener.
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