David's Bridal to add first shop in Europe

David's Bridal, the Conshohocken-based 300-store store chain that calls itself the largest bridal dress and accessories seller in North America, has set up its first European store, at the Westfield shopping mall in Stratford, east London, executive vice president Brian Beitler tells me.

As in the U.S. and Canada, the British market "is fragmented with hundreds of mom-and-pop stores, and the markets had not evolved in a century," Beitler added. "We offer one-stop shopping," the White by Vera Wang dress line, and "affordable prices." American and English designs and bridal traditions are similar, he says. Brides still wear white, but the market is evolving: with the decline in old-fashioned religious weddings and an increase in "destination" outdoor marriages at resorts, more brides are choosing "form-fitting silhouettes like sheaths and mermaid gowns," instead of lacy and hanging stuff, for example.

For now, David's will service its English brides through its warehouses in Conshohocken and Bristol, Pa., which, with the headquarters, employ several hundred people (national staff is over 10,000). From England, David's hopes to expand "across continental Europe." Beitler says the company has not set a British growth target.

David's was purchased for $1.05 billion by buyout firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice last year from Leonard Green & Partners. Green paid $750 milllion for the company in 2006, to Macy's, which paid $401 million to take the company private in 2001, five years after founder Steve Erlbaum and partners raised $94 million in an initial public stock offering.