The postponement of Record Store Day this year to June 20 due to the spread of the coronavirus could have a large impact on Arizona record stores.
The event, which according to a report from Nielsen Music boasted “the third-highest [sales week] on record for vinyl since [they] began tracking the format in 1991,” is “the biggest week ever for independent retailers" such as local retailers Zia Records, Stinkweeds, and The "In" Groove.
Mike Esposito, who founded The “In” Groove, located at 3420 East Thomas Road, in 2015, is pessimistic.
“For the rest of the country, it won’t hit as bad as it’s gonna hit us," he says. "Can you imagine 100 people queuing up in the middle of June? It’s not gonna be good.”
Kimber Lanning, the owner of Stinkweeds, located at 12 Camelback Road, which has been around for more than 30 years, is more upbeat. The rescheduled date also just happens to coincide with her birthday.
“I definitely think it’s the right thing to do, especially with a store the size of ours. [Editor's note: Stinkweeds is 800 square feet.] We’re actually very supportive of moving it to June 20, even though it will be a little hotter," she says. "We’re just gonna roll with the punches, and we think our customers will, too.”
That optimism is one shared by Jarrett Hankinson, the CEO of Zia Records, though it's tempered slightly. The company, which is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, has locations in Metro Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas. Hankinson does recognize the need to factor in the seasonality of the event’s new date, but he also has faith in the record buyers who have supported Zia for four decades.
Hankinson noted that Zia hasn't “[seen things] fluctuating either way," which is an experience shared by Stinkweeds.
“The first day that word started to spread, we felt it,” says Lanning, who is also the founder of Local First Arizona. “But since then, things have been coming back to normal.”
Stinkweeds also serves as a ticket outlet for Eventbrite, so tour cancellations and postponements have had an impact.
“We are getting people coming [in] for ticket refunds," she says. "What people need to know if they bought their tickets from us is — from the date the show cancels — it will automatically repopulate the card that you [used to pay] within two to five business days.”
But things are not going so well for The "In" Groove. Last Saturday afternoon, foot traffic in the store is almost nonexistent.
“Normally I’d have about 20 people in here," says Esposito. "Right now, I’ve got two.”
He also notes the impact the cancellation of another event: Cactus League baseball. At this time of year, he typically sees many customers, both the games’ attendees and employees of the visiting teams, who have money to drop on the store’s carefully curated selection. This year, not so much.
The cancellation of the Phoenix Record Swap Meet, scheduled for the end of the month at the Arizona American Italian Club, was another blow. Online business hasn't made up for the lack of foot traffic either.
“A lot of what I do goes overseas," says Esposito. "I’ve had orders canceled because they can’t get mail.”
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Esposito is concerned about The “In” Groove should current conditions last longer than a few months. The store boasts plenty of aisle space and can easily conform to recommendations regarding public gatherings.
“We’re by far the cleanest record store in the state but on top of keeping neat and tidy, we’re Lysol-ing everything and spraying everything down as much as we can,” he says.
Lanning and her staff at Stinkweeds are being proactive. After our interview, the store announced that its physical location will be closed, but will continue to take orders over the phone, through Discogs, and even delivering purchases to customers within a five-mile radius. She believes that their efforts will pay off.
Zia Records also announced yesterday, March 17, that it will be an online-only retailer starting today. As it has evolved over the years into a hub that serves the needs not only of music-lovers but the book, film, and pop-culture-obsessed, Hankinson also sees the bright side of the current situation.
“We always want to have fun," he says. "I think our customers enjoy that, and it’s one of the reasons they’re still coming to us and understanding that during this time they’re going to need some form of entertainment while they’re focused on all this scary stuff. [They] need a release, and that’s what we’re here for.”