Economic ripple effects of coronavirus outbreak felt in Iowa

Staff at Heart to Heart boutique in North Liberty said the coronavirus outbreak is affecting...
Staff at Heart to Heart boutique in North Liberty said the coronavirus outbreak is affecting its prom dress supply. Photo date: Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Mary Green/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 11:00 PM CST
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The prom dresses at North Liberty’s Heart to Heart bridal boutique come in a rainbow of colors, and on the floor below, its bridal gowns feature a variety of styles and designs.

Most of them still have something in common.

"I would almost say all of it comes from China,” Rochelle Jeffers, the boutique's manager, said.

The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association reports about 80% of Western-style wedding dresses are made in China. While Heart to Heart says its bridal dress supply hasn't been affected much by shutdowns in Chinese factories, its prom dresses have.

“They stopped cutting the dresses, so they don't make them anymore, so whatever is in stock is all that we can order,” Jeffers said.

It's not just the formal gown industry that’s feeling the ripple effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

"So much comes out of China these days that I think we're going to see just about every industry impacted by this,” Jennifer Blackhurst, a business analytics professor at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, said.

Blackhurst said that impact is heightened by how interconnected international supply chains are.

"If a company here doesn't have a direct supplier, let's say, in China, they might have a supplier in China, and so I think over the long term, I think we're going to see a more severe impact over time,” Blackhurst said.

Blackhurst said this situation is further complicated because no one knows how severe it'll become or how long it'll last.

"I think you're seeing reactions because of that unknown, and how do we really plan for the future when we don't have a whole lot to go off of,” Blackhurst said.

The staff at Heart to Heart has taken calls from other bridal boutiques, asking if Heart to Heart has dresses in stock that they can't order from China right now.

Jeffers hopes her store — and her brides — avoid a similar fate.

"I think the last three days, I've called about multiple dresses, just making sure that we are getting them the same date that they told me before,” she said.