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Marriage of sales, marketing to brides
[August 16, 2006]

Marriage of sales, marketing to brides

(Boston Globe, The (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Aug. 16--Businesses try to get their messages across at Filene's Basement bridal gown sale

Brides aren't the only ones trying to claw their way into Filene's Basement on Friday for its famous wedding gown sale. Businesses -- from wedding singers to Procter & Gamble -- are, too.

For the first time, Filene's Basement is allowing select companies to peddle their products at the Downtown Crossing "Running of the Brides" event, the twice-a-year spectacle when hundreds of brides line up for hours to hunt for deeply discounted gowns.

Staples Inc., the Framingham-based office supplier, and Dependable Cleaners of Quincy, will be at the Downtown Crossing event -- pushing photo and printing services and tailoring and cleaning tips.

Filene's Basement said it had to turn away many other businesses, including hotels, Redken salons, and the consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, which wanted to give away Swiffer mops.

"The event has just gotten bigger and bigger. Everyone wants to be a part of it. Who would have thought I'd have to turn P&G down?" asked Basement spokeswoman Pat Boudrot. "But I just didn't feel right about giving women mops. And how were they going to carry them around with the gowns?"

The Basement's bridal sale, which began in 1947, will feature over 2,400 gowns, priced at $249, $499, and $699; the dresses normally cost $900 to $9,000 at bridal salons.

The event attracts newly engaged women and their entourages of shopping buddies from all over the country and from abroad. Boston hotels offer deals for the event; the Fairmont Copley Plaza's "Running of the Brides Package," starting at $559, includes accommodations, energy bars, bottled water, and a pair of running shoes.

Getting products and marketing messages to a crowd of future brides who are shopping for their weddings is a coup -- especially considering how much people are willing to spend on their special day, said Beverly Ann Bonner, state coordinator for the Association of Bridal Consultants and president of The Wedding Beautiful in Norwood.

Weddings on average cost $27,000, according to online wedding guide The Knot, with brides spending $1,500 on dresses and more than $750 on stationery.

"The Filene's Basement bridal sale is a major event that hits the national news," Bonner said. "This gives huge awareness for businesses, and if a company is smart enough to marry with this kind of event, hats off to them."

Brides aren't the only object of businesses' attention. Typically, only a third of people who go to the Filene's event are planning to marry; the rest are friends, some of whom may get married in the future.

Staples said it contacted Filene's Basement several months ago to talk about ways to be a part of the bridal sale. The company decided to hire professional photographers to take pictures of the shoppers and print photos with "I Survived the RUNNING OF THE BRIDES!" along the borders.

The company is also offering a free poster-size color print at any Staples Copy and Print Center and $30 off of invitations or other designer printing services.

"This is the biggest bridal event, and what we're trying to do is drive the Staples brand and our copy and print centers," said James Sartori, Staples' regional sales and service manager. "We want to make it easier for brides to capture their emotions and excitement about the wedding. It makes perfect sense."

Dependable Cleaners, which is giving $30 discounts on cleaning services, is bringing tailors and seamstresses to the event who will answer questions and give advice on altering, cleaning, and restoring wedding gowns.

Company officials had considered hawking its services on the streets outside of Filene's Basement, along with other businesses, until they got the call to come inside.

"This is huge awareness for us. We weren't really sure Filene's Basement would see a place for us," said Christa Hagearty, president of Dependable Cleaners, which operates 17 stores in the region. "The ideal is to walk away getting to clean quite a number of wedding gowns for brides and creating raving fans."

Glenn Williams, a P&G spokesman, said the Filene's event is a "perfect place" to show off Swiffers to women who are starting new households, but the Cincinnati company will look for other opportunities now.

Linda Laurent, who is driving in from New York for the bridal event, said she welcomes the discounts and the assistance from other companies.

"I'm looking for bargains," Laurent said. "I'm told this is a must-go event, and I've got two friends who are meeting me at 6 a.m. on Friday to help with my plan of attack."

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