Formal wear businesses hurt by lack of high school proms, but remain hopeful

High school proms were postponed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in most cases, canceled altogether.

The cancelations were a major hit for a local formal wear business, but the owner says she's hopeful for the future as Arizona continues to recover from the pandemic.

Some school districts are trying to do something different to hold prom this year. That could mean hosting a prom on the football field to have it outdoors and keep COVID-19 safe.

Patricia Leupp owns Mr. Formal and says, "Prom is at least a quarter of our business, if not closer to a half."

Business from prom season, which would typically be about 200-300 students per weekend was left at a standstill.

"I would say we probably had 10% of the business that we had from the previous year. So yeah, it was a big drop," Leupp said.

She had to cut back on hours and even closed a few days during the week to keep up. She says what the store makes during a busy prom season is typically what keeps her small family-owned business afloat during the slow summer months.

"What we normally do is contact all of the schools to get prom dates so we can have it in the system so when the students come in, we know exactly when their prom is. Most schools I called said, 'No, we’re not having prom this year.' But at least we’re starting out slow. Luckily weddings are picking up, so that’s helpful," Leupp said.

She's remaining hopeful that more schools will offer some sort of in-person prom celebration. In the meantime, she's working on other types of events to make up for lost revenue.

"I was contacted by one of the high schools and they’re actually doing a fashion show this week and they asked us to provide the tuxedos for that. So we’re going to be doing that and another school where the moms have put together a prom," Leupp said.

She's also looking forward to the restaurant business increasing again because provides clothing for waiters and waitresses.