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Blizzard Aftermath: Retailers Open, but Shoppers Are Few

Women’s Wear Dailiy
By:  SHARON EDELSON
with contributions from KRISTI ELLIS

New York City and Washington, D.C., were a tale of two cities on Monday, as both metro areas dug out from beneath more than two feet of snow, unleashed by the first blizzard of 2016.

Manhattan retailers were mostly open for business, although some didn’t seem entirely prepared for customers. On Monday afternoon, sidewalks in front of retailers on Fifth Avenue were still being shoveled. Streets and sidewalks were slushy and pedestrians had to navigate huge snow drifts on street corners that hadn’t been cleared.

Washington, D.C., meanwhile, was still virtually shut down on Monday. The federal and city governments remained closed and only partial subway and bus service had been restored, as city officials worked to clear roadways.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a Monday morning news conference. “We knew we would have 24 inches of snow in the District and very cold temperatures throughout the week and several days of cleanup ahead of us. We know that we’re going to be dealing with snow all of this week.”

In Manhattan, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship on Monday was “completely dead,” according to a fragrance spritzer who was stationed by one of the main doors. “Friday, nobody came in because everybody was getting ready for the storm, and no one was in the store on Saturday or Sunday.” Saks closed early on Saturday as a result of the snow.

“We’re not busy because of the storm,” said an associate in winter accessories.

“It’s mostly tourists coming in, buying gloves and hats,” said a worker on the designer floor, “Today is definitely less busy than a normal day. The streets are bad and it’s hard for people to come in.”

Across town at Texworld USA and Milano Unica New York at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, exhibitors said Sunday was pretty much a washout with low attendance. There was a pickup on Monday, but traffic was still slow and several exhibitors couldn’t get into town to participate. An example was Buhler Quality Yarns, a mainstay at Texworld. Its executives couldn’t make it out of Georgia and had to forgo their participation.

Planalytics — a Pennsylvania-based business consultancy that advises firms on weather-related profits and losses — initially estimated the loss of economic activity to be in the range of $585 million and $850 million based on GDP assumptions for January, and the estimated portion of the population in the storm’s path. On Monday, Planalytics client services director Kelly Carroll, said, “Total snowfall amounts wound up being in the higher range. If Washington, D.C., has disruption from longer-lasting power outages, I’d expect to see the number increase. We’re waiting to see about coastal flooding in New Jersey and Delaware. If people are hunkering down or avoiding the mess that’s out there, we’re looking at extended loss of business.”

“Because of the amount of snow, New York was the tricky part of the forecast,” Planalytics’ Carroll said. “There’s the extended cleanup time in New York. But, the fact that people were cooped up for almost 48 hours could provide some upside for retail locations that were able to open up on Monday. We lost an entire day of commerce on Saturday, but it’s not going to make a huge dent in the season.” In addition to Washington, D.C., states below the Mason-Dixon Line fared worse in the weekend’s storm. Wal-Mart on Monday said only four stores, in Catonsville and Arbutus, Maryland; Sterling Heights, Mich., and Rowlett, Texas, remained closed, down from the 58 stores that were shuttered on Saturday.

Target kept seven stores closed on Sunday. Three of the units were in Virginia, three in Maryland, and one in Pennsylvania. All were open on Monday.

The snowstorm gave retailers a chance to sell some of the winter goods that had been collecting dust during one of the warmest falls and early winters in recent memory. “We saw strong sales in winter-weather categories, including outerwear, cold weather accessories and essentials leading into last weekend,” a Target spokeswoman said.

Macy’s count of closed stores on Saturday was 111 full price and five Macy’s Backstage units, with the Macy’s Herald Square flagship closing at 4 p.m. On Monday, a spokesman said, “It’s business as usual. All Macy’s stores are open.”

More than a dozen Bloomingdale’s and Bloomingdale’s outlet units in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania were shuttered on Saturday, including the 59th Street flagship, which closed at 2 p.m. “Bloomingdale’s is all open,” a spokeswoman said on Monday.

Westfield’s Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va., which was closed on Sunday, reopened on Monday. Simon Property Group’s Liberty Village Premium Outlets in Flemington, N.J., was closed on Monday.

Kohl’s units were up and running on Monday. “We saw strong sales in winter weather categories, including outerwear, cold weather accessories and essentials leading into last weekend,” a spokeswoman said.

Despite the limited mobility in the Washington, D.C., region, all of the major shopping centers, including the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., and Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria in Tysons, Va., reopened on Monday. However, some Web sites advised customers to check with individual stores for hours and continuing closures. Mazza Gallerie and the Shops at Wisconsin in Chevy Chase, Md., also reopened on Monday but some stores remained closed or opened late. The same was true for CityCenterDC, home to several luxury boutiques, where one sales clerk said only half of the boutiques had reopened on Monday.

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