EL PASO, Texas – Businesses in every corner of the economy suffered from the pandemic as they struggled to keep their people busy and doors open.
“It’s definitely a year we’d love to forget,” said Elodia Perches, owner of Bridal Novias, an El Paso wedding dress store.
Since wedding halls were closed and large gatherings were not allowed, many of Perches’ customers decided to postpone their celebration and with it their dress.
Bridal Novias lost 90 percent of its sales in 2020. A harsh reality that Perches had never experienced in the 39 years Bridal Novias has put brides together for their wedding day.
When the vaccinations were introduced and the convention restrictions lifted, Bridal Novias was able to regain some of its revenue when customers postponed their weddings.
“We are so happy and grateful to the city of El Paso and Las Cruces and all of the surrounding cities for actually saying, ‘Let’s shop locally,’” Elodia said.
But Elodia says they could make more money if some of their most loyal customers were actually allowed to come to their store. These loyal customers were stuck behind a wall in Mexican cities like Ciudad Juarez and Casas Grandes and couldn’t cross the line due to non-essential travel restrictions that came into force in March 2020.
It changed the way Perches customizes their future brides. Instead of their customers coming to their store, Perches brings their clothes to them in Mexico.
“I call myself ‘Ella Blue Bird’ now because I actually deliver door-to-door baskets,” Elodia said with a smile.
Since Mexican shoppers are so important to El Paso’s economy, one might think that sales tax revenues would suffer if those customers couldn’t shop in the city’s stores. In fact, the opposite has happened.
El Paso’s sales tax revenue continued to grow during the pandemic, according to city data. The only time the city saw a decline was at the start of the pandemic and in late 2020. It’s important to note that El Paso saw an outbreak of Covid infection and deaths in the winter of 2020.
In 2021, revenues skyrocketed. In May 2021, for example, there was an increase of 24.5 percent compared to May 2020.
“We recovered very quickly,” said Robert Cortinas, CFO of the City of El Paso. “It’s pretty surprising to a lot of people I think.”
Cortinas says the federal economic controls money is a major factor in El Paso’s success. Retail is seeing the greatest growth in sales tax revenue during the pandemic. This industry includes things like clothing, home improvement building materials, and auto sales.
Cortinas also credits El Paso’s resilience. He says the economy is very strong and has recovered in times of struggle such as the 2008 recession.
“We don’t see the very high fluctuations, but we don’t see any very small fluctuations either,” explained Cortinas.
Unfortunately, these flashy numbers won’t last long. Cortinas and his team will bring the number of suspects down to normal levels that the city is used to.
However, if the border restrictions are lifted on August 21, we could expect even longer high growth, according to Cortinas. Growth is what Perches hopes for, but she will settle for a day when she can furnish her future brides with the most important dress they will ever wear in their business.
“I want to stay positive and know that love won’t be canceled and we’ll stay here for the long term,” Perches said.