Bridal gown customers feel jilted as store closes, blaming Covid-19

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
Protesters outside Eurobride's Johannesburg offices.
Protesters outside Eurobride's Johannesburg offices.
Image: Supplied

A Gauteng wedding dress retailer has shut up shop without warning, leaving scores of brides without the gowns they’d paid for in full or in part.

A handwritten note posted on Eurobride’s Bryanston store reads: “Due to the current economic state in our country and the rest of the world, Eurobride has not been able to recover financially to open our doors again.

“Regretfully we are not able to fulfil our obligations to all our clients.”

Sharné Pillay had been battling to speak to Eurobride staffers about a refund of the R10,000 she paid to rent a dress for her December 2021 wedding when she saw a post on the company’s Facebook page last Monday explaining that their landlines were “down”.

The next day the company sent e-mails to clients, stating: “Unfortunately Eurobride is under liquidation therefore all operations have been frozen.

“We wish we could do more, our hands are tied.”

Eurobride’s attorney has since told TimesLIVE that his client wants to send gowns to its clients, if fully paid for first — but only by courier.

“If our client has to meet every bride, they will honestly not get to all of them,” said Johan du Toit, “As this is an incredibly time-consuming and expensive exercise for our client’s small team.”

Claudia van der Westhuizen of Durban flew to Johannesburg at the weekend to take part in a protest outside Eurobride’s William Nicol Road premises with other brides who said yes to the dress but have nothing to show for it.

“At last count 29 brides, now collectively owed R473,950 by Eurobride, are sharing their stories on a WhatsApp group, and more are joining every day,” Van der Westhuizen said.

Van der Westhuizen paid the company R10,000 as a rental fee for her dress for her March wedding which  has been postponed until next year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We did have a small civil ceremony on the day, and the company refused to refund a cent of my rental fee, saying it wasn’t their fault that I changed the agreement — which is not in keeping with the Consumer Protection Act,” Van der Westhuizen said.

Last April Jessica Coetzee paid Eurobride R11,000 as a 50% deposit on a bridal gown for her August 2020 wedding, and was told it would arrive at their Sandton store in February. That hadn’t happened by the time the country went into lockdown in late March, and when she made contact in September about going in for a fitting — having postponed her wedding until April 2021 — she was told they did not have their 2021 fitting schedule yet.

“Then — bang! — I got that October 13 e-mail saying the company is ‘under liquidation’.”

Three days later she got an e-mail from Eurobride, offering to courier her dress to her if she paid the R11,000 balance, but she’d need to get the alterations done “independently”.

“Given all that’s happened, I said I’d prefer to meet them in person,” she said. “I’ll hand over the money and they can give me my dress — but they refused.”

Several clients made payment to Eurobride as recently as August and September this year, and shared their invoices on the WhatsApp group as proof.

Fatima Rhoda-Weitz got married in a R30,000 Eurobride dress last November, and a week later received a call from the company offering her a complimentary dry-cleaning service. She agreed, handed her dress over, and then made several calls in the following weeks, wanting to know when she could collect her dress.

“I received many excuses from them, including that my dress was at their warehouse. Then Covid-19 happened in March and I continued to call them. Eventually in June I managed to arrange a time to collect the dress, but when I arrived, they were closed and then no-one answered the phone — I was fully ghosted.

“On September 29 I sent them an e-mail, begging for my dress to be returned to me, but I’ve had no response.”

An independent financial auditor who did work for Eurobride “some time ago” and has now had his personal cellphone number posted on Facebook and HelloPeter by a disgruntled Eurobride client, told TimesLIVE he’d received “scores” of calls from angry Eurobride clients in the past week.

“Like everyone else, I’ve also been unable to contact the owner, Laurence Mouton,” he said.

Fatima Rhoda-Weitz wearing her R30,000 Eurobride wedding dress last November. She handed it back to the company for dry-cleaning a week later, and hasn’t seen it since.
Fatima Rhoda-Weitz wearing her R30,000 Eurobride wedding dress last November. She handed it back to the company for dry-cleaning a week later, and hasn’t seen it since.
Image: Supplied

Attorney Du Toit sent letters to several Eurobride clients who had shared their experiences on social media, accusing them of defamation and ordering them to “cease and desist”.

“In the event that you fail to meet this demand, our client has instructed us to pursue all available legal remedies, including obtaining an urgent court interdict and/or seeking monetary damages,” he said.

“Our client will continue to engage with you, through our offices in a civilised manner, to try and find an amicable solution.”

Responding to TimesLIVE’s questions, Du Toit said:

  • Eurobride has had no new income for six months, yet still the same overheads;
  • The postponement of all weddings came at a huge expense for a company like our client;
  • Our client was forced to make difficult decisions, due to the fact that they do not satisfy the solvency and liquidity test, and will be negligent if they continue trading;
  • Eurobride unfortunately has to close as it cannot continue to operate.
  • Every gown in Eurobride’s possession is being sent out to clients, and our client is prioritising this by wedding date;
  • Our client is doing their very best to reduce the affect of Eurobride closing down and every case needs individual attention which is time consuming;
  • Our client even offered brides with a rental contract that they will receive their gown and can keep it as a gift due to the closure, yet our client still has brides refusing to pay the balance to allow for them to move forward with this, which is due to the smearing campaign launched against our client.
  • A special resolution was already authorised for a voluntary liquidation, and the CC will be liquidated soon.
Jessica Coetzee trying on her R22,000 dress last April. She paid an R11,000 deposit and last week Eurobride said it would courier the dress to her, after she pays the balance.
Jessica Coetzee trying on her R22,000 dress last April. She paid an R11,000 deposit and last week Eurobride said it would courier the dress to her, after she pays the balance.
Image: Supplied

Further responses in reply to our questions:

When will Eurobride return outstanding monies owed to clients?

“The unfortunate reality is that our client is unable to do so, however they are trying to give everything they have to assist.”

About those ‘cease and desist’ letters:

“It refers to defamatory remarks, and clearly invites the clients to speak to us in a civilised manner, for our client to see what they can do to still assist.

“Our client believe that they have handled this as ethically and humanely [as] possible, bearing in mind their current situation.”

About Rhoda-Weitz’s dry-cleaned dress:

“After the hard lockdown they had set an appointment for her to collect her gown on Friday 12 June 2020, but she did not show up. Due to this pandemic, our client was not in the store as per their regular hours and worked by appointment only.”

About Eurobride refusing to meet clients to accept payment and hand over dresses in person:

“Our client is working remotely, as they no longer have premises to work from. If our client has to meet every bride, they will honestly not get to all of them, as this is an incredibly time-consuming and expensive exercise for our client’s small team.

“Most of the brides have our details, and are welcome to contact us for reassurances.

“Our client has no intention to keep gowns and would like to send them out as soon as possible.”

 GET IN TOUCH: Wendy Knowler specialises in consumer journalism. You can reach her via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X