Brides Left Hanging As Dress Shop Shuts Up

Publish Date
Friday, 29 July 2016, 7:44AM
A few wedding dresses still hang on racks in the abandoned bridal boutique in Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket.

A few wedding dresses still hang on racks in the abandoned bridal boutique in Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket.

Brides could be out of pocket and without their dream gowns after an Auckland bridal boutique shut up shop and its owners left the country.

Primrose & Finch, which operated stores in both Auckland and Melbourne, has gone into liquidation - seemingly without so much as a word of warning to its clientele.

Bryan Williams, of BWA Insolvency, who was appointed liquidator of the company late on Wednesday evening, urged brides affected by the shop's closure to contact him.

"Half a dress isn't much use to these brides and we will do whatever we can to facilitate an outcome, but it's not looking that promising at the moment." Williams said the directors, registered on the Companies Office website as Kerry and Matthew Smith, had left for Britain.

"I'm not expecting the directors to rush back to New Zealand to face their creditors."

Williams knew of at least five brides who had paid a deposit, but were yet to receive a dress.

"The deposits are in the hands of the company and it's probably been spent meeting expenses."

He also suspected money had gone out of the country into Australia, but wouldn't know for certain until he received the accounts.

The company's directors did not respond to the Herald's requests for comment.

One bride-to-be, due to be wed in six months, said it was not till her designer, Claire Pettibone, emailed her that she found out.

"It's lucky ... otherwise I'd have gone to the store in November, not knowing any better."

The woman, who had paid an $1800 deposit on her dress, was surprised.

"You are putting all your faith in someone for the most important day of your life and they rip the rug out from under you."

Fortunately her bank had refunded the deposit and Claire Pettibone was shipping her gown to her.

On Facebook the US-based designer posted a warning to all affected brides and expressed dissatisfaction at the "unethical" manner in which they'd been treated.

"In our 23 years of business, we have never seen anything like this and we are appalled at the manner in which the owners of Primrose and Finch have chosen to treat our valued customers over the past few weeks.

"Unbeknownst to us, they continued to take orders and collect money from brides."

The designer said the account with the stockist had since been closed and Claire Pettibone would be working with the brides to ensure their gowns arrived.

An Auckland dressmaker was altering two bridal gowns on behalf of the designer, and was expecting two more to arrive soon.

She believed about 10 brides had bought a Claire Pettibone dress, but said there were a handful of other designers who had supplied the Auckland store - so she expected even more could have been affected by the liquidation.

The Herald spoke to the Newmarket store's neighbours, who reported seeing trucks moving goods away from the store this week.

They said the bridal boutique had been at the Khyber Pass Rd site for only a few months.

Photos from inside the abandoned store show a few dresses hanging on racks and shoes on shelves amidst the minimalist interior decor.

One business owner, who did not want to be named, saw a customer come to the shop to try to find out what was going on. "She was just confused ... it's terrible."

The Melbourne Primrose & Finch store closed in May. Store management and clients were owed money and had little warning from directors.

A former contractor, seamstress Jayne Coney, said signs of trouble were evident from almost as soon as she started working at the store.

She recounted dresses arriving that weren't made to the right design specification, the right size - and in some cases even appeared to be dirty second-hand gowns. "I was starting to feel sick every time I went into work, because how many more disasters were there going to be?"

Coney said she was not paid for weeks on end, and when she complained Matthew Smith made several excuses.

Eventually, with A$1800 ($1900) owed in wages and no news from Smith, she called it quits.

A Ministry of Business and Innovation and Employment spokesperson said anyone with a potential claim against a company in liquidation should contact the liquidator.

- Additional reporting Cherie Howie

NZ Herald