In response to the latest guidelines regarding shops reopening and the furlough scheme being extended, Sue Lovell discuss her concerns about where this leaves bridal boutiques
“This morning I have seen posts from Bridal Shops declaring they can open from June 1st, whilst the rest of us were considering July as an option, but now with Furlough being extended until October, are we realistically looking at November? Opening just in time for the traditional Christmas tumbleweed to make it’s appearance.
BrideCo has written to No 10, for clarification on where this leaves the Bridal Industry, as in effect, this has wiped out 2020 for us all. Shops are left in the situation that if they do decide to open, they can not furlough staff, and they may see that the anticipated rush for wedding dresses does not make an appearance, as brides keep their powder dry until they have more concrete plans in place, and feel comfortable enough to go out shopping. Without childcare, or the ability to bring friends and family members to the appointments, are brides going to want to wait for a more relaxed time to come to choose their dresses. The prospect of having an assistant wearing a facemask and gloves, with some stores even promoting the idea of wearing a white clinical coat seems more like a trip to the gynaecologist than a bridal store – and who looks forward to that?! It is necessary but no fun, and you will find a million reasons to put it off.
The Grant money, for those that received it, the extra borrowing for those that applied for it, are all well and good, but will not replace possibly 8 months of lost trade. Virtual appointments are not going to replace the lost turnover that real interaction would have generated. We are in the awful situation of doing the right thing for health, and risk damaging the wealth aspect of the business, but by opening are we alienating the people who would see us as putting our wealth over their health? Opening too early gives the impression of being desperate, but lets face it, we are! Will staff want to come back if they feel the environment is not safe – and how can we socially distance and dress a bride?
Everyone is more confused today that ever before, and I have to say the feeling of hope and optimism has been replaced with stunned despair. This has gone from a three-week closure, which was irritating at the start of the wedding season, to an eight-week shut down, which we could cope with but was stressful, to possibly eight months. which equates to nearly an entire year of trade. The knock on effect is stores can not place orders for new stock with suppliers with confidence, we are looking at shops full of new season stock, which has not been shown, and will now be ‘last season’. Plus many brides are reporting they are now changing plans, and no longer want to spend on the dress they want, but will have a ‘nice’ dress that will do for a small wedding with a few guests, and they will consider a party at a later date.
Stores are also reporting that brides are being given poor advice from ‘legal experts on social media’ who claim they can demand deposits back and cancel orders for dresses or venues as the original wedding can not take place, and told to put pressure on businesses and to name and shame them. Then there is the added stress of providing bridesmaid gowns that will not fit growing children and teens. Many of my brides have been given 2022 as alternative dates by their venues.
Suppliers are asking stores to pay outstanding balances with Grant money, or take out a loan, but with no definitive date as to when we can start trading again, who do shops pay – supplier or landlord? Existing borrowing or day to day running costs, or order from a new collection? Many shops are being put under such pressure by suppliers that they are willing to walk away from the label, and stick with suppliers who are showing more understanding. But the truth is, we are all in the same position, and none of us can accurately predict what this will mean for the industry.
We have had a number of video meetings, and everyone has been so positive, but since Boris said so much, and yet nothing at all on Sunday we are suddenly all in limbo.”