In the year 2016, before I started my business, Sissily Designs, I came across Davie and Chiyo's Etsy shop. At that time, their designs for bridal hairpieces dominated the entire front page. I used to think, "Gosh, I wish I could be like them! So talented and chic!"
Having graduated from the London College of Fashion with a fashion degree, I unfortunately had limited experience in the fashion industry. Life took me on a different path, transitioning from the fashion world to the business world and eventually landing in the education field due to financial reasons. Finding a teaching-related job seemed easier than toiling in the competitive and cutthroat fashion industry. At that time, like many young people, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life.
However, Davie and Chiyo served as a tremendous inspiration for me when I was dissatisfied with my full-time job. I decided to create and sell bridal fur shawls on Etsy. Surprisingly, my business took off, leading me to quit my job and dedicate all my time and energy to building my brand. (I'll share more about this in the future.)
As one of their fans, I closely followed Davie and Chiyo's Etsy store, reading customer reviews and keeping up with their latest designs. While they were making around 10K in sales, I was only selling about 10 items. I also discovered their own website, which I loved. Inspired by them, I decided to follow their footsteps and created my own website, www.sissily.com.
Over time, more and more sellers joined Etsy, and I soon realized that Davie and Chiyo's sales were declining, particularly in their hairpiece category. Their handmade designs commanded higher prices, while dropshippers flooded Etsy with appealing pictures and significantly cheaper options. Amazon sellers also seized the opportunity, offering similar items to Davie and Chiyo's at a fraction of the price. For example, an item selling for about $89 from Davie and Chiyo could be found on Amazon for $15, while other Etsy sellers offered similar products for $45.
Gradually, Davie and Chiyo lost their market share in hairpieces on Etsy. Their items became harder to find on the Etsy home page. They expanded their product range to wedding veils, wedding dresses, and fur shawls (which happened to be my area of expertise).
Their veils, priced over $200, performed relatively better than their other products. However, they couldn't compete with Amazon veils priced between $20 and $50. It seemed that they weren't doing well with their wedding dresses either, as I rarely saw them sell one online. As for their shawls, they were undoubtedly beautiful but priced double what I offered. Although they initially did well, as I introduced more products, it became harder for them to compete with me.
Once, I received a return from a customer, mistakenly sent to me instead of Davie and Chiyo. The shawl was soft and of high quality, but I was selling a similar item for half the price. It was no wonder the customer chose mine over theirs. Ultimately, it became a price war (a situation I'm currently dealing with, which I'll discuss next time).
Before I knew it, my total sales number surpassed theirs. I reached over 30K orders while they were at 20K orders. Their products became increasingly scarce on Etsy's front page, overshadowed by numerous sellers offering cheaper alternatives online. I'm not sure how they're faring on their own website, but I assume it's not as hot since driving traffic to one's own site is incredibly challenging compared to Etsy.
As my business became busier, I stopped closely following Davie and Chiyo for about 2-3 years. This summer, I suddenly thought of them and decided to look them up. It appears they have sold their business to someone else (apologies if I'm mistaken; it's purely a guess). They changed their name to Tempete Brand and transformed their business model into a high-end bridal store. They now have a prominent storefront, and their product prices have become even higher.
This made me contemplate the wedding industry, which can roughly be divided into two groups: 1) The expensive high-end segment and 2) The low-priced online selling segment.
The first group offers a high-end wedding experience, where brides could try on different items before making a decision. The entire experience can cost between 5K and 10K. If I had that kind of money, I would pay for the package and experience, even if I knew I could find a similar veil online for $50 instead of $250. It's akin to dining in a nice restaurant, where you'd willingly pay $10 for a bottle of sparkling water that costs $1 elsewhere. It's the service and experience one seeks, not just the products. Clearly, Davie and Chiyo/Tempete chose this route.
The second group focuses on low prices online experience. When you enter the "online selling" world, you essentially step into a pool of price wars. Since online stores can't provide the same experience as high-end boutiques, sellers must rely on pictures and competitive pricing. Let's take Shein as an example. Shein showcases incredible pictures, even better than Zara and other retail stores. And their prices? Unbelievably low! It creates a feeling that you can buy whatever you want. People love that "I can buy whatever I want" sensation, as it makes them feel wealthy. If they can't shop like affluent individuals at physical stores, at least they could do that online.
That's the current state of the wedding industry. If you want to sell online, you must offer highly competitive pricing, or else you'll eventually be overshadowed by others. Even if you know your products are of higher quality, customers can't perceive that through an online platform.
Alternatively, you can explore the option of getting your products into higher-end bridal stores or even opening your own store to establish a strong brand image.
However, both paths are challenging. You need to persevere and keep pushing forward. It's like playing a game where your success is determined by how well you can navigate the industry.
One thing I'd like to mention is that 80% of the world is not wealthy. Most people would choose a $20 veil over a $250 veil or a $200 wedding dress over a $5,000 one. However, let's not forget that 10% of people possess 90% of the world's wealth. There's a saying: "Unless you dominate the low-price market, you can only become rich by selling services and products to wealthy individuals." I believe that's true; otherwise, why would Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermes thrive for over a century?
At last, I want to extend my best wishes to Davie and Chiyo / Tempete Brand in this highly competitive wedding industry. Ultimately, the purpose of running a wedding business is not solely driven by monetary gains, but rather a passion to create something beautiful for the brides who dream of a stunning wedding. I have faith that they will continue to thrive with their strong brand image in the future!