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Decent proposal: lessons from an award-winning bridal indie

Rachel Snedden, owner of Drapers Independents Award-winning bridal indepedent Rachel Scott Couture, gives her tips for “honest” business.

Rachel Snedden founded independent bridalwear retailer Rachel Scott Couture in Edinburgh 15 years ago. Operating in a highly competitive, booming market – the UK wedding industry is made up of more than 139,000 small businesses and contributed £10bn to the UK economy in 2018, reports wedding planning app Bridebook – Snedden has made a name for herself by stocking brands that cannot be bought anywhere else in Scotland, such as Alice Temperley, alongside big names including Suzanne Neville and Amanda Wakeley.

She launched her standalone accessories business, Rachel Scott Accessories, in 2015, and opened the first shop in Edinburgh the same year.

British wedding-dress designer Andrea Hawkes, whose eponymous brand has been stocked by Rachel Scott Couture since 2018, says Snedden’s “experience, hard work and determination” help her to stand out from the crowd. The retailer won Best Customer Service at last year’s Drapers Independents Awards, and is shortlisted in the brand new Bridal Independent of the Year category for this year’s awards, which will be presented at a ceremony in London in September.

Snedden says she still thinks of her business, which has a continual turnover growth of 20% year on year, as a start-up, and is constantly looking at how it could improve. Here, she gives her advice for other small business owners looking to grow.

Rachel Scott Couture, Edinburgh

Rachel Scott Couture, Edinburgh

Rachel Scott Couture, Edinburgh

What do you put Rachel Scott Couture’s success down to?

Being genuine and honest about how I run my business and the experience I want my customers to have.

I treat everyone who comes into contact with Rachel Scott Couture in exactly the same way. Whether they’re buying a dress or browsing, they all receive the same genuine, honest and approachable service.

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a client: I answer emails at 11pm, do fittings at 6am, deliver dresses whenever and wherever. Customer service is integral to what we do and every decision that we make.

What does an “honest” business mean to you?

Not making any rash or crazy decisions and staying true to myself. It might mean that I’m a bit soft and we’re not a huge business or an overnight success, but it doesn’t mean we’re not any good – slow and organic growth is [our aim].

I’m also aware of how I interact with suppliers. They get under pressure and stressed too, so it’s important that I’m accommodating and for them to know that. We have mutual trust and respect for one another, and being known for that is hugely rewarding. It’s great for our reputation and we get lots of recommendations as a result.

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Has your strategy changed since launching in 2004?

As we win more awards everyone’s expectations, including our own, are heightened, so we have to keep pushing ourselves in order to reach them. We know to never sit on our laurels, though. We constantly assess what we are doing and how we can improve.

That said, social media and marketing are by far the biggest things that we have had to adapt to. When [Rachel Scott Couture] started out, we were cutting-edge as a bridal shop as we had a website. Now you need one.

Social media is constantly changing and it’s hard for small businesses to keep up with. I have great staff who understand my brand image and we treat social media as a team effort, which has really helped. We work together to post images, create captions and showcase the business.

It’s great for getting our name out there and to help us stand out from other retailers. This is particularly important for bridal and luxury businesses, as people parting with huge amounts of money always do lots of research beforehand.

Who is Rachel Scott?

Good question! At the time of me starting up the business I wasn’t married but I was with my partner (now husband) Scott Snedden. I didn’t want to use my maiden name (Brown) but also didn’t want to use my now husband’s name since we weren’t married yet. 

We wanted to have a brand name that would stand the test of time and have the potential for recognition across the world in years to come.

My husband’s first name is Scott, and being Scottish we though that Rachel Scott Couture seemed to work well!

What advice would you give to other indies?

Never be shy about asking for advice. I used to think that, because I run my own business, I should know everything. Nobody does.

You don’t have to listen but speak to peers and other business owners; ask lots of people lots of questions – it will really help you to develop your brand and understand the market.

Drapers independents awards 2019

Drapers Independents Awards celebrate the best brands and retailers in the independent sector. Join us for an afternoon of inspiration on 11 September at the Brewery in London. Book your place now. View the full Drapers Independents Awards 2019 shortlist here.

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