We asked Sue Lovell of Susan Nicholas Opulent Bridal (SNOB), founder of member association BrideCo, what bricks and mortar retailers must do to get the best possible deal
As we start to think about opening our doors on 12 April, after another long and gruelling lockdown, a debate has started amongst BrideCo members and probably many bridal shop owners across the country regarding the Restart Grants.
The question is this: Are bridal shops considered ‘Non-Essential’ or ‘Close Contact’ – now known as Personal Care?
As a Non-Essential, we can open on that date, and claim a restart grant that will range from £2,667 to £6,000. However, as a Close Contact or Personal Care business, we can open on that same date, 12 April, and looking at a Restart Grant of between £8,000 £18,000.
What grant we are eligible for could make a significant difference to the speed with which we bounce back. Dress fitters and tailors were previously on the Government’s website as Close Contact Services; they have since been removed.
Bridal shops should not be judged as a traditional retail clothing shop. The challenges we face are very different. We are the very definition of Personal Care – we cannot operate unless we have close contact with our customer.
Weddings have either been postponed or taken place under restrictions for over a year now, with the uncertainty and further restrictions hanging over us until at least end of June; our customers are understandably cautious. We have missed out on what is traditionally our busiest time of the year for sales, and the alteration side of the business will be decimated for yet another wedding season.
Unlike hairdressers, who are considered personal care, we have no guarantees that every appointment will result in money changing hands. Many of us have commitments to suppliers and are already overstocked with collections that have not been shown, but are already “last season”. Dresses that should be working for us bringing in a return for the investment, will be on the sale rail to realise both funds and space.
As BrideCo members, we have been writing to our MPs and local Councils explaining that we believe we should be classed as Personal Care rather than Non-Essential.
If you agree, please email your local MP, asking for clarification as to what category Bridal Shops should be, explaining that we really do offer a unique service, one that cannot be considered comparable to other retailers. Ask for an explanation as to why dress makers and tailors have been removed from the close contact list. Inform your local Council, who are responsible for approving the grants, that you feel you should be classified as a close contact or personal care business.
The impact on the wedding industry has been catastrophic. Bounce back loans will start being repaid in June, before we have had a chance to really get back on our feet. Government and local government will not have any understanding of how we differ from other retailers, so now is the time to inform them.
Thank you Sue for this feature? Share your opinion in the comments below.