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Chippenham bridal firm marks 20-year anniversary
Amelia Hanratty has provided wedding dresses for about 5,000 brides since setting up in business in Chippenham 20 years ago.
This year Amelia Classics won an award for best independent business, at Cherish Chippenham’s first business awards, and she said the key is to make the buying experience fun.
Manageress Susan Chandler said she enjoys taking a customer who looks like a rabbit in the headlights and making sure they leave the shop excited. She said: “Most brides haven’t done it before and they’re scared. It’s about putting them at ease.”
Mrs Hanratty, 53, said: “If there is not laughter in the shop, then we are not doing our job right.”
She is actually celebrating 25 years in business because when Amelia Classics opened on The Causeway in 1993, she had already been making dresses from home for five years.
In 2008 they branched out into menswear with a second shop across the road. And with the rising demand for prom dresses, a third shop dedicated to evening wear opened in 2011.
This summer her three shops merged into two, with an art studio opening on the shopfloor it vacated. It is run by April Barlow, 34, who credits Mrs Hanratty with helping to motivate her.
She said: “Amelia is a trailblazer for women in the business community. Very few have this level of success in this independent way and, as an ex-teacher, she finds mentoring important and is great at reaching out to others.”
Amelia Classics continues to cater for both men and women on their special day, with five ranges of wedding suits to hire and about 200 gowns in stock.
The 2014 collection is due to arrive next month.
Prices start at £500, but recently a dress was sold for £1,200 for a wedding in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The more colourful shop next door, which stocks the dresses for bridesmaids and proms, is also noisier as the girls’ excitement about the occasion bubbles over.
And they promise not to sell the same dress in the same colour to any other customer attending the same event, so they can be sure to avoid a fashion faux pas.
They also cater for same-sex relationships, can order in and have a full-time seamstress to do alterations.
Ms Chandler said because of their three different sections, staff rarely get to see it all come together, so they really enjoy it when the bridal party goes in afterwards and shows them pictures of the big day.
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