Amid New Terror Alert, Fashion and Retailing Brace for GOP

With the threat of terrorist attacks looming, New York’s fashion and retail industries prepare for gridlock and demonstrations during the Republican...

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NEW YORK — Nicole Miller’s design company is loading up on canned tuna fish and microwave popcorn. Fern Mallis, executive director of the 7th on Sixth extravaganza anticipates that the show’s 47 trucks and trailers will be searched. Liz Claiborne Inc. is considering telecommuting and other options for its 1,000 workers in Manhattan’s Garment District.

As the Bush administration announced a high risk of terrorist attacks against financial institutions in the New York area and Washington, the fashion and retailing industries here were also preparing for logistical challenges, closed streets, gridlock and protests during the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden starting Aug. 30.

The latest warning of car bombs or suicide bombers at targets such as the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup Inc. headquarters had little immediate impact on shoppers on Seventh Avenue, but prompted officials to ratchet up security that has been high since the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center. The primary changes Monday involved rerouting traffic, teams of police officers at landmarks, major subway and rail stations and bridge and tunnel approaches and random searches.

At All Aboard Worldwide Couriers, a trucking company serving the Garment District, general manager Sulbha Zutshi said the extra security is a fact of life. “What has to be done has to be done,’’ she said.

Retailers were concerned about the reaction of shoppers and any impact on restocking shelves.

“It will take longer to get things into the store, when the police are checking the bridges and tunnels, and I would assume that psychologically, the warnings affect the mind-set of the shoppers,” said a retailer, who requested anonymity.

Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, said, “Generally, consumers have taken all of these terror alerts pretty much in stride.” Financial markets appeared to do likewise, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at 10,179, up 39 points for the day.

But the threat prompted the directors of Casual Male Retail Group Inc. to decide not to attend their firm’s annual meeting set for Wednesday in the MetLife building on Park Avenue, said a spokesman for the Canton, Mass.-based company. Instead, the eight directors and management will conduct the session by telephone conference call. It will also be broadcast on the Web.
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