What's in Store: Prom dress shopping got better at Byron shop

Prom may be more than five months away, but prom dress shopping season is officially open.

Now that holiday gifts have been given, teenage girls may be anxious to find a dress to say yes to for Prom 2015 before winter break comes to an end.

The Prom Shopin Byron just had its grand opening on Friday with more than the latest prom trends to celebrate — the store underwent a significant makeover and now boasts:

• A runway and five stages, all with dimmer lights to replicate the prom experience.

• Sixteen dressing rooms, including quick-change rooms for girls who have dresses on layaway and want to quickly show their friends or parents.


• TVs showing pictures from previous years' proms that have been sent to the Prom Shop through Facebook or email.

• A 25 percent increase in dress inventory.

• Ten-inch tablets at each stage.

• A paging system for those waiting for a room.

• A laptop kiosk for each girl to register at once she arrives.

• An Oscar-style banner is up for girls to take pictures and selfies.

"I do a lot of traveling. I'm constantly looking for new dresses. We go to New York to buy jewelry. We go to Las Vegas to buy shoes," said Pam Bessler,owner of the Prom Shop. "Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas to buy dresses."

In her 30 years retailing prom dresses, Bessler has never seen the styles change so dramatically from one year to the next as they have this year. "High necks, very elaborate backs," she said. "A lot of modest dresses. Long sleeves. Ornate beading. Black and white. Aztec."


Bessler's experience and customer feedback informed many of the decisions she made in the remodeling process. Many of the changes improve the efficiency and fun of the dress shopping process.

One prevents this prom dress shopping calamity: Girl meets dress. Girl tries on dress and falls in love. Girl finds out dress will be worn by another girl on prom day at the same high school prom she is attending. Girl cannot wear dress she has fallen for and must select another dress.

This can be as complicated and heart-wrenching as finding another date for prom.

The Prom Shop has kept the same dress from arriving at the same school for years. It used to be that this would be caught at the point of sale. Now, thanks to the 10-inch tablets at each stage, staff is better able to keep a girl from falling for a dress that's already taken. From the tablets, they can track what schools the dress is committed to and if it's available in other colors before the customer even tries it on.

Another dress shopping conundrum that Bessler has long helped her clients with: Girl falls in love with dress and puts it on layaway. Girl finds a dress she loves even more when stopping in to make a payment on the first dress she fell for.

Bessler allows customers to trade up. "We have some girls who trade numerous times," she said. "We love it. We get to know them very well."

The Prom Shop attracts customers from surrounding states and down from the Twin Cities. A family from Nebraska drove six hours just to shop at the Prom Shop. Maybe the store has developed a following because of Bessler's commitment to improving the shopping process, or maybe it's something more.

"It's my staff's job to make girls feel beautiful. Doesn't matter the budget," Bessler said. "I love working with prom girls."

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