Retailers’ Big Drift: Scurrying to Recover From White Weekend

Retailers in the Northeast got clobbered by this week’s snowstorm, but have plans to replay promotions to try to recoup sales.

Georgetown merchants were hampered by street plows shoving walls of snow onto sidewalks. The Georgetown Gap on Wisconsin Avenue at 12:30 p.m. still hadn’t opened and a clerk wasn’t sure if the store would that day. However, Cory Scott, director of marketing at The Shops at Georgetown Park said, "Traffic is picking up. A lot of people are trapped at home in the neighborhood and are looking for something to do."

In downtown Washington, most retailers reopened Tuesday, including the Hecht’s flagship at Metro Center where President’s Day 50-to-70 percent off sales signs still beckoned. Saks Jandel, an upscale two-unit chain with stores in Chevy Chase and at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, was hit hard. The stores sent out 17,000 postcards for a President’s Day sale that would have run Saturday through Monday, but they stayed closed Sunday and Monday. The sale has been extended through Saturday. "We usually do some big numbers but on Saturday we did one-fourth of the normal three-day sale total," said general manager Mark Tomlin. "It gave us a big kick back for the month of February."

In Boston, the storm dumped more than 23 inches at Logan Airport by Tuesday morning as Governor Mitt Romney urged residents to keep off the roads to avoid accidents and make way for plows. A spokeswoman for Simon Property Group, which owns roughly 16 malls in the Boston metropolitan area including the Chestnut Hill Mall and the Copley Place Mall, said most of properties closed by two o’clock Monday due to deteriorating weather. "I think it’s fair to say a substantial amount of the sales that could have occurred yesterday will happen another day," she said. "Particularly in New England, where there is school vacation, people will be getting cabin fever."

The Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, N.H. closed at 5 p.m. Monday evening instead of its customary 9:30. Anchors Sears and Target, which have separate entrances, stayed open to supply snow blowers, shovels, batteries and other storm-related items, according to a spokeswoman.

Issie Shait, who manages the Cambridgeside Galleria in Cambridge, Mass. and the Westgate Mall in Brocton, Mass., said the snowstorm doesn’t spell disaster for retailers. Traffic was up about 2 percent at Cambridgeside over last year on Saturday and Sunday, Shait said, but plummeted Monday when conditions turned ugly. He closed the mall at 3 p.m. but it opened on time Tuesday because most of the urban mall’s parking is underground. Some suburban malls, however, weren’t as lucky. Shait’s Westgate Mall didn’t open until noon Tuesday because of plowing and clearing.
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