Just hours ago, Alfred Angelo, one of the largest bridal outfitters in the United States, unexpectedly announced that it was closing its doors.
All stores will close by 8pm July 13, 2017, according to company emails.
The company's bankruptcy attorneys have issued a statement saying that the company will "encourage the Chapter 7 Trustee to finish and fulfill as many orders as possible."
This essentially means that the person put in charge of liquidating the assets (selling off all the stuff to make enough $$ to pay back debts) will be encouraged to fill orders, but doesn't have to.
So where does this leave your brides/ bridesmaids? Here is what we know:
Ordered Dresses: Some corporate emails/ communications have said that if dresses were paid for, brides must simply go pick up their dresses. Be aware that it is cash only, and credit cards are not being accepted. Corporate emails also indicated that other brides who have already paid should wait for their dresses to be shipped to them.
WZZM 13's spoke with attorney Patricia Redmond. Redmond says that there will be multiple proposals developed early next week to ensure that brides get their dresses. "I will have a list of dresses that have been sold and are on hand and we will go through them to get them delivered as soon as possible." Redmond noted she was getting a list of seamstresses so that those dresses also will be delivered.
BUT: Once the company files, brides may be out of luck. Once bankruptcy is filed, the property is essentially frozen-- meaning dresses, money, veils, accessories, etc. The store isn't allowed to distribute anything. As of the publishing of this post, we believe a filing has not been completed, and that brides and their bridal parties can still get their items-- we will update you if we hear otherwise.
Hostage Situations: One bride said that her wedding dress was in the hands of a company seamstress, who is essentially "holding it hostage" for $400 worth of alterations. According to one employee, the retailer "let the seamstresses go a few weeks ago and this is why they are holding the dresses for ransom... because AA never paid them." The police have been called and are now involved.
Another bride has reported that she paid $500+ to AA for repairs, but a seamstress is demanding ANOTHER $500 because AA has not paid her.
This is NOT legal, especially if you've paid for your dress in full-- unless there's a contract between you and the seamstress stating otherwise. But when tensions are high, folks do funny-- sometimes illegal-- things to get money they believe they have been stiffed.
If this hostage situation or any other "missing dress" situation occurs, first try and reason with the seamstress. Then, you can reach out to the corporate office via Twitter, phone (hasn't proved successful) or email. Also, you can contact the your local news affiliates, who have proved very interested in this story. Finally, you can reach out to Patricia Redmond, the attorney in charge of bankruptcy, named in the letter above and available at 305-789-3553. Remember: she isn't their corporate attorney, so don't take out your anger on her-- she will be trying to pick up the pieces.
If all else fails, you can always assure your brides that they may be able to file in small claims court. This may not be helpful if the wedding is in the next couple of weeks, but can at least help clients recover on the back end.
Un-ordered Bridesmaid Dresses: Brides who haven't ordered their dresses will have to either wait for a possible liquidation sale or order second hand.
Because bridal parties may have some dresses ordered and some unordered, Facebook groups like this one are popping up hoping to help bridesmaids groups order same color or "look alike" dresses. Members have rallied together to offer to sell their Alfred Angelo pieces to those looking for cohesive matches. BUT BUYER BEWARE of scam artists who may take advantage of a stressed out bridal party!
Some proactive ways to help:
Send an email. Email clients on your email list to give them a heads up. This also makes you seem VERY on top of things!
Advise your clients to stay calm, and don't sue anyone yet. Easier said than done, I know. But don't feed into the drama already swirling by saying things like, "We're gonna sue them!" or "stirring the pot." Lawsuits are expensive, and parties can't recover attorneys fees in some states unless it's explicitly stated in the contract with the defendant. PLUS, we're dealing with bankruptcy, which throws a whole new set of rules into the game.
Offer to help them find matching bridesmaid dresses using Facebook, Ebay, and your bridal network. You can also use the links to David's Bridal and JJs House, who are offering discounts and/ or help to affected wedding parties (see below for details).
Make sure your brides are aware that they may need to start looking for new dresses if they are on a tight timeline. Once bankruptcy filings are submitted, the company isn't allowed to distribute any property whatsoever-- including things that may be paid for. They will have to wait for a distribution from the trustee, which can take.... a long time.
Tell clients to dispute credit card charges if your bride/ bridesmaids do not receive their dresses. They can also cancel pending transactions and find a dress elsewhere if there is time.
Keep checking back for more updates. We will keep you filled in.
And as a closing note: this is a learning opportunity where we can observe how not to handle a crisis. Communication has allowed rumors and confusion to reign supreme, and customers are livid instead of sympathetic to the retailer's plight.
UPDATE, 9:01 AM 7/14/17
One bride has shared the following:
UPDATE, 9:14 am, 7/14/17
David's Bridal has issued the following offer for brides and bridesmaids affected by the closures:
Obviously, some conditions apply; visit this site for more details.