Wedding dress manufacturers have warned that closures at factories in China due to the coronavirus outbreak could mean delays for British brides.
The whole industry is “suffering”, according to one retailer, as the production of wholesale bridal gowns relies heavily on Chinese suppliers.
An extended Lunar New Year break in a bid to curb the virus spreading saw factories closed for a prolonged period.
Although many employees returned to work earlier this month, shutdowns at lace mills and other fabric suppliers could also prompt a setback in production at factories in China.
James Waddington, of bridal dress manufacturer Romantica of Devon, told the PA news agency that the average wedding dress has a 16-week lead time.
“Most of them are not made to measure, but that dress is made specifically in that size, colour and length, for a specific bride, and that’s the way the wholesale market operates,” he said.
“That means it’s virtually impossible to bulk on stock, because nobody really has stock.
“I’ve got about a thousand dresses in my warehouse, which might sound like a lot, but I’ve got 250,000 iterations of my product.
“So the chance of me being able to fulfil just one dress from my stock is pretty unlikely.
“If the Chinese government closes the factories down, if the factories don’t get to reopen, what happens to our production?
“The problem is that our factory buys their lace from lace mills. My factory might guarantee me that it’s going to reopen, but what happens if the lace mill doesn’t reopen?”
He said the company had begun to ship half-finished dresses to the UK for them to be completed at local factories, due to potential for a lack of materials in China.
“A lot of people order their wedding dress a year before the wedding. So those are orders that I can push back,” he added.
One manufacturer said that misinformation around the spread of the virus, known as Covid-19, had left retailers asking if staff or brides could catch the virus from the dress.
“The level of hysteria is agony,” the manufacturer said.
“I’ve had at least five bridal shops ring me up in the last month asking me if they should be wiping down the dresses in case they’ve got coronavirus on them.”
The British Bridal Suppliers Association (BBSA), which represents the interests of bridal manufacturers and suppliers in the UK and Ireland, acknowledged that the coronavirus outbreak was causing concern to retailers.
It said on its website that many brands had revised their standard delivery times to avoid disappointment for brides.
William Dicks, chairman of the BBSA, said independent bridal stores can be more “agile” during the crisis due to varying supply chains.
“Most of the retailers in bridal are independent stores, obviously those retailers therefore carry a selection of different designers,” he told PA.
“Which is one way of us to overcome this problem of supply out of China, those designers will all have different supply chains.
“So if a bride goes to an independent retailer, they’re going to have advice on what can be delivered on time and suit their budget.
“As one country is affected by it, another one hopefully comes out of the other side. So one supply chain might start facing difficulties, but another is easing up.”