Ian Payne 4pm - 7pm
British brides could be left without a wedding dress due to coronavirus
26 February 2020, 22:18
For many brides, the dress is one of the most important aspects of the big day.
But many British brides could be left without a wedding dress after factories in China were forced to close over the coronavirus outbreak, creating a shortage of white gowns.
The whole industry is "suffering", according to one retailer, as the production of wholesale bridal gowns relies heavily on Chinese suppliers.
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, said 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?"
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is "working with the Treasury on the appropriate response" to supply chain issues.
"Many wedding dresses in this country are designed in this country but made in China, and wedding dress companies in the UK, including in my constituency, have found it really difficult because the factories have been closed in China and they're now suffering.
"Having married many women in my time when I was a vicar, I am aware that this is very time sensitive, and there is a real danger to many of these businesses that they are going to suffer enormous financial loss, let alone to the families.
"So I just wonder if he could chase up replies from ministers in other departments to make sure there is some kind of financial support to these companies," Chris Bryant MP told the House of Commons.
Mr Hancock replied: "He raises an important point and through the medium of the wedding dress makes actually a much broader point, which is that a huge amount of things are made in China.
"And this is true also of drugs and pharmaceuticals and right across the board, especially clothing.
"And this virus and the impact on China will have an impact here through those supply chain problems and I am working with the Treasury on the appropriate response to that.
"Containing the virus will obviously have health benefits but it will have economic benefits too."