It was meant to be a joke. But the recession got the last laugh when more than 500 callers responded to an ad for a new bridal registry service offered by the 99 Cents Only Stores.
Brides and their gift-hunting pals were invited to inquire about the registry's debut with a quick call to (213) LUCKY-99. The discount chain's managers knew that their inexpensive products were popular, especially during a recession; but none believed that customers would seriously consider Ajax cleanser and a sponge for couples preparing to waltz down the aisle.
"We thought it was kind of funny and we wanted to see what response we'd get," said Mimi Levinson, sales manager for the Vernon-based chain. "But those who took it seriously made us think it was a good idea. Unfortunately it's a sign of the times."
Indeed it is. With the recession hanging over the nation like a shroud rather than a veil, people are looking for more options and practical purchases instead of more traditional and expensive wedding gifts such as formal china or crystal.
"It's a fantastic idea, because people often have a lot of showers and it's very nice if someone sends you to the 99 Cents Only Store," said Barbara Tober, the New York-based editor in chief of Bride's and Your New Home magazines. "The economy would certainly show an interest in that at this point."
More specialty stores are offering registry services, Tober said. Lovebirds with particular interests can register at gourmet, liquor, hardware and even record stores. Selected Home Depot and Tower Records stores get frequent requests for the service.
"It's practical, especially if the person is young," said Allison Shifke, manager at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. "Or maybe it's their second or third marriage and they already have everything."
Registries at big-name department stores aren't necessarily hurting for business, however. The bridal registry at Bullock's Westwood is one of the store's biggest money-makers, said Xan Poziak, assistant manager of the china, crystal and silverware department. Customers are still registering here for fine china and crystal, but some are also registering in less-expensive stores as well.
Although the 99 Cents Only Stores' bridal registry ad was created as a joke, the chain intends to sell gift certificates (in $9 increments) to those who are interested. After the enthusiastic response, management is seriously considering developing the bridal service.
When office workers at State Farm Auto Insurance in Cerritos suggested that Jill Savage take advantage of the ad, she laughed. But then reality hit. She realized that her friends would appreciate a less-costly gift option for her wedding next month.
Although she plans to register at The Broadway, she would consider registering at the 99 Cents Only Stores too, even if it's just to make her friends laugh.
"In my case it would be practical," Savage said. "I don't need the regular things you usually get. I could always use the gift certificate to buy cleaning supplies as I need them."
Or maybe a 99-cent bag of rice for the wedding.