Lowcountry dress and tuxedo stores rebound from pandemic for prom

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) – High school students in the Lowcountry are buying dresses and renting tuxedos for ballroom dances without COVID-19 restrictions for the first time in two years.

That means local clothing stores and tuxedo rental businesses are bouncing back after two years of not having the spring dance at some schools.

“We feel like we’re drinking a little in a fire station, but we’re really trying to deal with it,” said Monique Semper, owner of Charleston Tuxedo in Mount Pleasant.

Semper says his store’s sales are up about 60% from spring 2021.

“We are so excited for events to take place and people are excited about it. They don’t even hesitate to go ahead and buy prom tickets,” Semper said. “This spring is unprecedented. We are delighted.

Two North Charleston businesses are also seeing an increase in sales from the peak of the pandemic.

Compared to 2021, Tuxedo Junction saw a 32% increase in sales. The store saw an 18% increase in 2021 compared to 2020.

“That’s my pick-up list for next week. You’re looking at about 145 people and that’s going to maybe double by Monday of next week,” store owner Barry Johnson said. “So for us , being open right now is a blessing, so I thank God every day for the business we have.

In the Northwoods mall, Sash processes orders that have led to a 50% increase in sales over the past two years.

” It was great. The girls leave. It’s good for these girls to get what they want,” said store owner Jade Whited. “It’s the best day of their lives so far. You know, prom is a big deal for these high school kids and I think they’re thrilled.

All three companies say their suppliers are running out of product this spring. Store orders also include formal wear for weddings, graduations and military balls.

“We have three main suppliers that we use. Just yesterday we learned that we could no longer place orders for this week. All three are out,” Semper said.

It’s a problem that Semper and Johnson say has never happened before. Both stores have multiple vendors for their tuxedo and shoe rentals.

“The best thing is that we keep everything in stock. I don’t need to order a lot,” Johnson said. “In 17 years I had no problem getting a shirt until this year. It took me five months to get shirts when it usually takes me two weeks.

“We’re out of stock and need to re-order it, but (customers) will be waiting,” Whited said.

Companies are at varying levels of staffing as the season reaches its peak. Semper gave pay rises to its employees after sensing that this year’s prom season was going to be big for sales.

“I wanted to keep them motivated and keep them excited. It’s definitely a teamwork situation,” Semper said.

For Johnson, it’s a different story. He and his wife run most of Tuxedo Junction’s operations, but they must do so under a heavy workload.

“Our only problem right now is the staff. We have the product, we have the weddings, we have the proms. We just can’t find good help,” Johnson said.

Whited’s staff has grown from two employees to 12, but the workload is tough on her individually as she likes to get her hands on as many dresses as possible.

“It’s been so busy. We just can’t keep up. We don’t turn people away, but they don’t mind waiting,” Whited said.

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