FORT WORTH, Texas — Wedding gown and prom dress retailers are facing short supply and long waits because factories have been shut down due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
WhatchamaCallit has locations in Dallas and Fort Worth and is the nation’s largest prom store.
“If you can’t find it here, I don’t think it’s been made,” manager Alexa Graham said.
Graham says around 80% of their dresses come from China, including popular brands. Right now, they’re telling customers what’s on the racks is all they’ll likely get in time for prom in May.
“They are very like, ‘Wow, oh my gosh, I’m so happy I’m here today,” she said. “If the factories do not open soon, this will be what is left for everyone to pick from."
The virus has turned searches for the perfect dress from fun to frantic.
“I feel like I’ve been thinking about this since freshman year,” said Jacqueline Sosa, a high school senior shopping at the store.
“It’s very important. You know it’s like senior year. You’re trying to show off,” Veraly Salazar, another senior, said. “I was very specific the first time I came in, but now I’m just going to be like, 'Whatever, I need to open up my mind more.'"
Vendors are warning WhatchamaCallit to not trust online ordering either, even though it’s more popular for teens.
“It’s a huge deal, especially since prom season is ending in May,” Graham said.
Several bridal stores told WFAA they're experiencing similar issues.
David’s Bridal, a major chain of bridal gowns, said in a statement half of its factories are in China, but they don’t expect to be affected.
“Our number one priority is making every customer’s experience magical and easy,” David’s Bridal CEO Jim Marcum said in a statement. “We know how stressful a delayed order can be to a bride, so I’m here to unequivocally say that every customer will have the dress of her dreams in time, before her event date.”
However, Plano-based Stardust Celebrations, which operates Lulu’s Bridal as well as Molly’s Bridal Closet, said they can’t guarantee any new orders of Chinese-made gowns before Sept. 1.
“The human coronavirus in China has greatly affected the Chinese bridal gown factories and Chinese shipping systems,” StarDust Celebrations co-owner Jenny Cline said. “Because of the uncertainties surrounding factory re-openings and staffing issues, there are shipping delays on existing orders and extended delivery dates on any new orders."
Graham says they’ve already had girls faced with just having to buy the wrong size of their dream dress and pay to alter it.
“What I would say is to shop right now,” Graham said.