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Brides take stage at Mall show
Annual event draws biggest crowd, most vendors ever
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Coco Roberts, background right, visits the Cookie Crumb booth during Saturday's Bridal Show 2007 while scouting for her engaged sister. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    The Statesboro Mall hosted its largest bridal show ever this past Saturday with more than 40 vendors and an estimated 1,000 attendees. Vendors lined the corridors selling everything from honeymoon travel packages to wedding cakes and balloons.
    "It is a wonderful opportunity to meet people and show our product to potential customers," said Scott Sherman, owner of Southern Studios, a photography studio based in Statesboro. "Last year we came to the show, but didn't participate as a vendor. Statesboro is a growing, booming market. We realized that we needed to be here and be a part of this bridal show."
    Bob Claxton, owner of Heritage Videos in Statesboro, said the show serves two different purposes.
    "This show is important because in addition to visiting with potential customers, you also get a chance to visit with other vendors," Claxton said. "The wedding business is a networking type of industry in which referrals from other businesses is very important."
    "For example, a florist or cake creator might recommend us to a couple getting married," he said. "That is why it is important to stay in touch with the other merchants in our industry. This is a great opportunity to do that."
    According to the Conde Nast Bridal Group, weddings have become a $130 billion a year industry in this country, with the average overall expenditure per wedding eclipsing $27,000. Vendors of wedding related services now realize that they must take their services to the customer if they want to stand out in a booming industry.
    Amber Meeks, marketing director for the Statesboro Mall, said the number of vendors has increased every year and the number of attendees continues to rise.
    "This is the largest event that we produce each year here at the mall," Meeks said. "We are adding new vendors every year to our growing base of repeat participants. It really is a lot of fun for everybody."
    Heather Merritt, an independent representative of Passion Parties, a national sensual products and party-plan company said the Statesboro bridal show is the only trade type show that she participates in each year.
    "I began working with Passion Parties three years ago and have worked this show each of those three years," she said. "I have always had a lot of success here, and that is why I continue to come back. In last hour and a half, I have booked three parties. It is a great opportunity to showcase my business."
    Merritt said sensuality is an important component in preparing for the big day that most brides do not take into account until they see her display.  
    "On your honeymoon, it is important to bring something extra to the table," Merritt said. "We want brides to see different ways to do that. Also, our line of passion products is appropriate for bridal showers and the like. It can be another fun part in the wonderful buildup to getting married."
    The bridal show vendors aren't the only ones that benefit from the show. Mall tenants count on and prepare for the extra business that the day will bring.
    "We place extra staff in several areas of the store on bridal show Saturday," said Jennifer Hill, an area sales manager for Belk's Department Store in the mall. "Our china, makeup, dress, children's, and fine jewelry department are catering to brides on this day. These are all components of a wedding."
    Hill said in-store sales are markedly stronger on the day of the trade show.
    "There is no doubt that our sales numbers are greater on this day than on a regular Saturday when nothing special is going on," Hill said. "I don't know this for a fact, but I would have to think that every store in the mall benefits from the increased traffic on this day. It really is a fun sales day."
    Macon resident, Dee Ann Geeslin, came to the mall to "kill some time", while her daughter interviewed for a scholarship at Georgia Southern.
    "I wish there had been bridal shows like this when I was getting married some 20 years ago," Geeslin said. "It sure would have made things a lot easier."