Wedding Dress Maker Goes Broke as Fewer Americans Marry

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Calls to wedding gown maker Alfred Angelo went unanswered on Friday because the company had filed for bankruptcy that morning and was closing its stores and ending its distribution sales. In its filing, Alfred Angelo claimed $50,000 in assets and more than $50 million in liabilities according to a report in The New York Times.

The company had 60 stores of its own and distributed and sold its dresses through about 1,400 other retailers. Alfred Angelo was founded in the 1930s in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, wedding chapel operators formed a Wedding Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and imposed a surcharge of $14 on marriage licenses to pay for marketing the business. According to Pew Research, in 2000 the state issued 72 licenses per 1,000 residents; by 2015 the rate had plummeted to around 30 per 1,000 residents.

Marriage is out, at least among less educated Americans who tend to earn lower incomes according to Pew. In 2014, 75% of women with college degrees were married by their early 40s compared to just 60% of women with only a high-school diploma according to the Brookings Institution and cited in a report last week from Bloomberg News.

The Las Vegas wedding chapel business has retreated from the brink of disaster, in part thanks to the 2014 state law legitimizing same-sex marriages. About 4% of visitors to the city are there for a wedding.

The brides-to-be who had ordered dresses from Alfred Angelo were not so lucky. Some have lost deposits of as much as $1,200 according to The Wall Street Journal.

And the dressmaker’s bankruptcy does not appear to be due to online sales. One wedding industry researcher told the WSJ that online wedding dress sales amount to less than 20% of the total market, not enough to “make a huge dent” in sales.