NEW ORLEANS — Black Friday this year coincides with International Record Day and Joe Bailey arrived early at Peaches Records store on Magazine Street. He picked up some vinyl albums some of us may remember…
“I got Snoop’s Doggystyle, and here’s Grand Puba,” said Bailey as he was shuffling through his new stack of vinyl,” said Bailey.
Peaches Records saw a good turnout on this first day of the Christmas shopping season, but owner Lee Rae says COVID-19 is forcing them and many other small businesses to temper their expectations.
“Usually on Black Friday, it would be like a festival in here. We’d have bands playing, free snowballs, and today, we want a good crowd but a manageable crowd. We have to have safety first. That’s the weird thing, we’re almost planning not to do too good right?” said Rae.
Historically, this is the time of year when consumers spend billions of dollars and stores begin to see their profit margins leave the red and move into the black. Rae says the pandemic makes that a moving target.
“It’s been a wild ride for 2020. No one has a year’s savings when you have to shut down six months to a year, it’s really complicated,” said Rae.
The National Retail Federation is predicting holidays sales will be stronger this year than last year, but some business owners say they’re not so confident.
“The consumer is also afraid to come out, or they don’t have jobs, this is a very big reality,” said Rhonda Findley.
Findley owns Pop City in the French Market. She says her revenue dried up when COVID cut off tourism in New Orleans. That forced her to close her other store on Magazine street. She’s hoping Pop City can stay open through the remainder of the pandemic.
“Hanging on here is part of the commitment that our entire community needs to have for us to get passed this financial crisis and health crisis,” said Findley.
Consumer confidence drives so much in the retail sector, but here in New Orleans many small businesses also rely on tourism and hospitality. Mark Carothers is tourist from Maryland. He too was visiting Peaches Records on Friday. Carothers said Magazine Street felt a bit empty.
“I definitely feel bad for small businesses, which is why we’re trying to hit up as many as we can while we’re here,” said Carothers.
The city needs millions of visitors like Carothers to have a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. Until that time comes, any business from tourism, no matter how small, is welcomed.