Wedding industry still needs certainty, says bridal boutique MD

ASK Emma Meek what the Government’s latest guidance on weddings has meant for her bridal boutique and the answer comes straight back. “Turmoil,” she says.

Emma, managing director of Miss Bush in Ripley High Street, has been an impassioned voice for her industry throughout the pandemic, and shows no signs of changing now.

Emma Meek in the Miss Bush boutique

“We’re an industry adrift,” she adds. “No one has any certainty, or any prospect of it.

“Escaping lockdown has been pushed back four weeks, but is that the end of it?

“I’ve had four weddings cancelled in a matter of days because people are just ground down by not knowing.

“I don’t think we’re being fairly treated. There is a £14.7billion industry and more than 200,000 jobs at stake here, yet for every supposed concession something else is taken away.

“Numbers allowed at weddings may have gone up, but you can’t stand up to have a drink.  How much fun is that? You want to mix.

“Then I turn the television on and there’s a crowd at Royal Ascot, or at football, fans all over each other.

“Yet there is no data that suggests transmission of the virus can be traced to weddings. Even so, we’ve never had a test event, no pilot scheme. We’re just seen as some kind of frothy, girly Sex and the City fantasy.”

For all that, Emma reports good business in the days since non-essential retail was allowed to reopen in April.

Emma compares notes with her colleagues Corinne Peach and Rosie Roberts

“We’ve done well, been busy, taken plenty of money, but that’s not by accident,” she continues. “My staff have been wonderful, doing 12 to 14-hour days, we’ve been working seven days a week to keep things going. We’ve had to do it to try to make up some of the lost ground.

“Without them it would have been a different story. Businesses are surviving on personal sacrifice, and that’s true of so many of them.”

That experience is leaving its mark, and Emma’s increasingly wary perspective on business could be seen as a warning for those entrepreneurs who would follow.

“I wouldn’t start this business now,” she says. “I wouldn’t start anything in non-essential retail. Now the Government just seems to want tech start-ups in someone’s bedroom, stay out of the way and don’t bother anyone.

“But people need the coffee bars, the florists, the personal contact businesses that can spark the economy. They need to be encouraged.

“I’m 55 this year and once I’d have thought that by then I’d be slowing down, making a few changes to my life, maybe taking on some less stressful role.

“Now I’m just running faster to stand still. I’ve paid £40,000 in corporate taxes recently so we’re still a good business, but I’m keeping hold of my Bounce Back Loan.

“It’s that uncertainty again. Who knows when I’ll need the cashflow? Who knows what will happen next?”   

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