Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Bridal firm's owners have bad history

Owners Kerry Jane Smith and Matthew Robert Smith were previously directors of failed companies in Britain. Photo / Supplied
Owners Kerry Jane Smith and Matthew Robert Smith were previously directors of failed companies in Britain. Photo / Supplied

The owners of a bridal boutique that went into liquidation leaving 63 brides in the lurch have faced financial strife before - two other failed companies and one bankruptcy.

Kerry Jane Smith, 43, and Matthew Robert Smith, 46, owners of Primrose & Finch, filed for voluntary liquidation last week, closing their Melbourne and Auckland stores.

They are believed to be back in Britain, leaving a debt estimated at $319,000 to former landlords, brides, designers, other creditors and Australian and New Zealand tax authorities.

Primrose & Finch's failure is not the Smiths' first. In Britain they were listed as directors of two dissolved companies, Fairytale Wishes Ltd (2007-2010) and Childhood Treasures Ltd (2005-2009). Both were struck off for failing to file annual returns.

A British Insolvency Service spokeswoman said there was no record of a "formal insolvency" but Smith, who is an accountant, was made bankrupt in 2011- a year after Fairytale Wishes' dissolution.

The Smiths then moved to Auckland with their four children and established the bridal business early in 2013 in St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell.

According to the liquidator's report, in "expectation of perceived growth" they relocated to 205 Parnell Rd in early 2014. In mid-2015 they set up the Melbourne store.

Liquidator Bryan Williams, of BWA Insolvency, said this was a "mistake of fatal consequences".

However, others have told the Weekend Herald signs of trouble appeared much earlier.

Former landlord Cheryl Lilly, who is owed $44,000, said they had defaulted on the Parnell Rd rent several times in the past couple of years.

"It was like getting blood from a stone, it was always a few days late, or a few weeks late."

Employees, who were also frequently unpaid, recounted seeing poorly made dresses, samples being sold as the real deal, and even second-hand dresses resold as new.

Former contractor Jayne Coney was owed A$1800 ($1900). After being given "every excuse in the book", she left the Melbourne store at Easter.

At least 10 designers have been caught up in the liquidation, many of whom shared their frustrations over delayed payments, unfulfilled orders and poor communication.

Johanna Hehir, from Wellington, recounted one incident where the Smiths told a bride the non-arrival of her dress was due to an error on her part, which she said was not true.

Marina Kvasova, managing director of British designer Katya Katya Shehurina, said that in three and a half years of doing business with Primrose & Finch it was always "very late" with payments.

Designer Joanne Fleming said that 18 months ago the relationship began to deteriorate to the point she was no longer prepared to deal with the company.

Duncan Cotterill senior solicitor Darise Bennington said if Smith's past bankruptcy in Britain was discharged by the time he set up the company here it would not have posed a problem.

Primrose & Finch

• In voluntary liquidation, owing $319,000 to creditors and tax authorities

• 63 brides were left without a wedding dress

• Owners Kerry Jane Smith and Matthew Robert Smith were previously directors of failed companies in Britain

- NZ Herald

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