DISTRAUGHT brides-to-be are having wedding nightmares after a Chester bridal shop suddenly stopped trading.
Chester Bridal Gallery in Northgate Street has ceased trading and all stock – including customers’ dream wedding gowns – has been removed from the store.
Staff have been told they no longer have jobs and won’t be paid while the company’s stores in Preston, Southport, Tarleton and Woolton Village have also closed.
The Chester branch was open as normal last Thursday but staff were informed the store would be shutting for good that night.
Although it is unclear exactly how many customers are affected, the Leader has been told dozens of dresses were in stock with many more in production.
One staff member, who asked not to be named, said: “I got a phone call at 9.45pm on Thursday telling me not to go to work in the morning and that we wouldn’t be getting paid.
“We have been told removal vans were parked outside the shop on Thursday night and the place was being emptied. They have taken all the dresses and the only things left now are some chairs.
“Nobody told us anything. The phones went down on Thursday and we asked the owners what was going on but they said it was a fault and was being repaired.”
Karen Taft, owner of dressmaker Benjamin Roberts, said 16 dresses due to be sent to the Chester store were currently at the firm’s Swansea factory.
She said: “This is the worst case I have seen and we are facing the biggest loss we have ever had. We haven’t been paid by the store but the 16 dresses here are safe.
“The only details we have for the brides are names and we want them to get in touch so we can do a deal to make sure they have their dresses.
“The sad thing is that nobody had a clue this was coming and we don’t know what has happened to the dresses we had already sent to the store.”
Store owners The Bridal Gallery Group said the company’s bank and credit card processors had made it “impossible” for them to continue trading.
The firm said it was aiming to fulfil all orders but this would depend on the company reaching an agreement with its suppliers.
Following the store closures, a statement from the owners said: “Before you panic, we do not intend to just shut up the shops and leave you attempting to regain your deposit and find that dress of your dreams all over again.
“We are a family-owned and run business and over the last six years we have invested a considerable amount of personal money, along with blood, sweat and tears, into building what we consider to be four amazing bridal shops, and have not taken a penny out during this time.
“It is our intention to fulfil all current orders we have, however this requires the agreement from our suppliers which we are currently in discussions with.
“We will be pushing hard for them to allow us to provide your dress as intended, and hopefully they will also, like ourselves, not want to put you in a bad situation.”
The owners blamed the bank’s refusal to increase the company’s £20,000 overdraft and the credit card processors’ demands for extra cash security to continue taking payments.
They said the dresses were removed from shops with the liquidators’ approval and more than 30 have since been delivered to customers from the five stores.
Customers who think their dress may be at the Benjamin Roberts factory can call 01792 564710.
'I think I am lucky'
ONE bride from Chester, who asked not be named, said she broke down in tears when she called at the store on Friday morning to find her dress had been taken.
She said: “I turned up and the whole shop was empty. I was a mess because my wedding dress had gone.
“I had paid for it in full and didn’t have any wedding insurance. It was horrible.”
The bride, who is due to get married a few days before Christmas, has now been reunited with her dress after collecting it from the store owners.
She said: “They rang me up and said ‘we have your dress’ and I think I am lucky.
“They had about 20 dresses in the boot of the car and I hope the brides who had paid in full will be okay but I doubt the ones who had only paid deposits will get any money back.
“I feel so sorry for the other brides and the workers.
“You just don’t expect your bridal shop to close down. It was very stressful and I am thankful I am one of the lucky ones.”