Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Brides left in lurch after bridal store shuts down

Kerry and Matthew Smith. Photo / Facebook
Kerry and Matthew Smith. Photo / Facebook

The owners of the boutique bridal store that shut up shop seem to have left more than jilted brides in their wake.

Primrose & Fitch directors Kerry and Matthew Smith this week filed for a voluntary liquidation of their company, which had two stores, one in Melbourne and one in Auckland.

At least 45 Kiwi brides who've forked out deposits, in the thousands of dollars, have been left in the lurch after the couple shut the Auckland store, without a word of warning to its suppliers or its clientele.

They've since returned to the United Kingdom and it seems others are also out of pocket.

As former landlord Cheryl Lilly, of Sera Lilly Bridal, recounted, earlier this year they'd left their Parnell store - for which they'd signed a lease that was set to continue till November this year.

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Lilly said after 18 months of the Smiths continually being late on their rent, the couple packed up shop and moved into the company's last known location on Khyber Pass Road.

"They paid the rent the first month, then after that it was like getting blood from a stone, it was always a few days late or a few weeks late.

"Matthew always had excuses for everything, the whole time they were there." Lilly even locked them out of the store once when they continually failed to be forthcoming with their rent.

She said they paid it the first month, but then the excuses started all over again.

"First they were away on business, then the bank card had been hacked and someone had used their accounts fraudulently." Smith wrote on Facebook on August 31 last year that their private and business bank accounts with BNZ had "been hacked" and everything was gone.

She said three transactions for the same amount happened at the same time and was surprised the bank didn't pick up the "major security flaw".

However, BNZ later refunded the money, Smith said in the post.

Lilly finally made a call to change the locks and evict them - but she said the Smiths left before she had a chance.

"We went upstairs and everything was gone." She said neighbours reported seeing trucks moving goods from the store earlier in the week.

While there Lilly said she ran into another bride who'd come to pick up her dress.

"It was awful to think they'd just taken their money and gone," she said. "The awful thing with this, is there's no recourse." Lilly was in the middle of plans to take the couple to court over what she was owed - but wondered if it was worth it now the Smiths were reportedly in the UK.

Following the Herald's initial story on the bridal boutique's closure, others have spoken of their run-in with the British couple.

Attempts to contact the Smiths have so far proved fruitless, and the liquidator in charge of the company also expressed doubts the couple would return to face their creditors.

As well as the distraught brides, and the out-of-pocket landlord, numerous other stories have been filtering through, from unpaid designers and a number of dissatisfied customers.

Wellington-based designer Johanna Hehir was one of those who hadn't been paid the deposit for a number of dresses ordered via Primrose & Finch.

At first she didn't think much of it, because the Smiths had routinely paid her quite close to the wedding day.

"They paid me when I was going to deliver the dress," she said. "They'd leave it till really close to the date.

"I don't know anyone who leaves it so close." Hehir said this was often just a matter of weeks before the big day.

In comparison, brides the Herald spoke to said they'd all paid deposits, up to a year before their big day, under the guise it was to ensure the designers could buy the material to make the dresses.

While Hehir wasn't facing a financial loss as a result, she said she'd be losing time making dresses for the brides who'd been left out of a dress.

"I'll help, because obviously it's an emotional time and I don't want to see brides upset."

Hehir said the first inkling she'd got something was amiss was when another affected designer, Claire Pettibone, contacted her about her own woes and then one of her brides went to the Auckland store and found it closed.

She said there was only one other incident in her dealings with Primrose & Finch that gave her some cause to be wary.

"One poor girl from the South Island came all the way up, only to find her dress wasn't there. They told her, they'd had to send it back because it was faulty."

Hehir said this was certainly not the case - but she managed to help the bride and get her a dress in time for her wedding day.

Claire Pettibone had at least 20 orders from the liquidated company - but was yet to see a cent for these dresses.

While she'd pledged to help out the affected women, Pettibone said she too was going to be out of pocket as a result of the Smiths' actions.

"Not only does Primrose & Finch have outstanding invoices that are owed for dresses they received from us months ago, but the way they have abandoned their clients is inexcusable."

- NZ Herald

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