As Black Friday approaches, Dolphin Mall business owners are hopeful

Carlos Rivera is a 49-year-old, who works as a landscaper, has been shopping at the Dolphin Mall for eight years. Even today, he walks through the mall five times a week for exercise.

But Rivera won’t be shopping at the West Dade mall this Christmas season. He is afraid of catching COVID-19.

“I just know people will come shopping for the holidays, but I’ll be doing it online,” said Mr. Rivera. “You never know who is sick or not in the stores.”

A year after the pandemic forced stores across the nation to close or limit operation during the Christmas season, many business owners fear reactions like those of Rivera. Going into another year, with the pandemic still around, owners fear they will face the same situations as 2020.

At Dolphin Mall, one of the county’s busiest shopping centers, stores are hopeful for better sales during the holiday. Opened in March 2001, it has grown for decades and now has 240 stores, including the largest IKEA store in Florida.

Skechers Outlet was one out of many stores hit hard last year. First assistant manager Marelys Belizario fears poor sales in weeks ahead, which will result in the second year of not making their holiday goals, starting with Black Friday this week.

“Last year, not only were we understaffed, but we missed our December holiday goal by 40% compared to the previous year,” said Belizario.

Belizario had a difficult time last year trying to go into the holiday season fully staffed. Unfortunately, she says, many people were either afraid of contracting the virus or did not want to leave unemployment checks behind.

But lack of employees wasn’t the only worry she had about being understaffed. Making their seasonal goal was difficult due to many shoppers doing holiday shopping online. And protocols that limited the number of people in the stores caused long delays in even entering the Skechers Outlet.

“Many shoppers refused to wait in line to enter the store because of how long it was,” said Jesus Martinez, a former employee who worked with Skechers for two years. “But hopefully, this year, with fewer restrictions, we will have a joyful season.”

Other stores such as Pandora faced the same situation. Store manager Jessica Rodiguez said her store was facing closure due to not making any of its sales goals for four months, and having to be closed during the pandemic didn’t help.

“People would come in to browse, but we didn’t have as many sales last year compared to the past years,” said Rodiguez.

Rodriguez added that another factor in people not buying was that many people were unemployed for a few months. Still, she believes this year will be better in both traffic and sales.

Many workers at Dolphin Mall and other retail stores are also hoping for a better outcome — hopefully to include those who missed out on last year’s in-person shopping — even though COVID is still around.

Rivera, the landscaper who plans to shop online this season, believes that Dolphin Mall will be packed this holiday season due to high vaccination rates and people not being afraid of traveling.

“I know a couple of people looking forward to these sales that the stores will be having,” said Rivera. “I will be wishing them the best of luck because I can only imagine the long lines for Black Friday.”

I am a senior majoring in digital media and journalism. I enjoy filming and I would love to continue my career with the ABC network after I graduate.