Online Bridal Registries - 'Something New' (674 words)
Brides and catalogers turn to online registries
National retail chains used to dominate the wedding gift registry market. Now the Web is cutting catalogers a bigger piece of the $35 billion wedding cake as online gift registries make registering and shopping for gifts easier for far-flung guests.
Renowned gift catalogs, including Ross-Simons and Macys.com, have already put their popular real-world registries online. Now Web gift registry networks are making cross-catalog registrations possible so that a bride and groom with eclectic tastes can register for everything from fine china to outdoor recreation gear.
These registries include Della & James (www.dellajames.com), which was launched by two venture-capital-backed former Stanford M.B.A. students. Della & James participants include Crate & Barrel, Dillard's, Neiman Marcus, Gump's, REI and Williams-Sonoma, some of which also operate their own registries. Instead of considering cross-catalog registries as competition, participants view the additional exposure as an inexpensive customer-acquisition method.
The fledgling Della & James site squares off with WeddingNetwork.com, a Denver-based free online bridal registry founded in 1997 (qualifying it for a silver anniversary in Web time). The site recently announced that it would combine its 750-catalog registry (including Ross-Simons, Calyx & Corolla, Horchow and Sur La Table) with content from Modern Bride magazine—which happens to be published by Primedia, one of WeddingNetwork.com's biggest investors. Both the added content and the well-known Modern Bride brand may give the site an edge in attracting brides.
The potential payoff for catalogers is tempting. Since the average wedding includes 100 to 200 guests who spend about $100 each, a wedding registry offers catalogs multiple high-value transactions—sort of a supercharged friend-get-a-friend program.
Do online registries work? Williams-Sonoma would vote yes. When the upscale home cataloger launched its own online wedding registry at wswedding.com in June, it constituted the company's first foray into e-commerce. According to Pat Connolly, executive vice president and general manager of Williams-Sonoma catalog division, "In its first six days, the site has generated more sales than our largest Williams-Sonoma store without any marketing or advertising to our customers."