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Eastern Storm Affected Retail Sales

A fierce winter snow storm last week ripped through the Northeast, resulting in highway accidents, school closings and a rough day of selling.

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NEW YORK — A fierce winter snow storm last week ripped through the Northeast, resulting in highway accidents, school closings and, for some independent retailers, a rough day of selling.

“We closed four doors,” said Tom Mendes of Plaza Too, which has locations in New York and Connecticut. “The kids were home from school and nobody wants to go out in that weather.” Mendes said boots with a winter-weather functionality, like Aquatalia by Marvin K and Hunter, did well this season, but he didn’t see an uptick in sales right after the storm now that customers are gearing up for spring purchases.

“We received about eight inches of snow, and we were open on Monday but only did about $300 in business,” said David Levy, CEO of The Comfort Shoe Shop in Shelton, Conn., adding that last Tuesday, immediately after the storm was far worse. “The next day we were off 60 percent from a year before. When it snows in Connecticut, residents usually stay at home. The day after was horrendous. It made a bad situation horrific.”

Laura Flynn of Laura Jean Denim in Newport, R.I., whose denim and footwear boutique is situated in a destination shopping center, said the weather always affects little boutiques like hers. “The week before was really cold and that affected things as well. If it’s windy and cold, forget it. My business is definitely contingent on the weather and January was pretty bad. In February I actually did better than I did last year.”

According to a report released by business weather intelligence firm Planalytics, last month was the fourth driest and 13th warmest February in 50 years, which helped some retailers’ margins as consumers began early purchases on spring items.

Other retailers last week said the storm didn’t negatively impact their businesses.

“We got eight inches, but in Bergen County the women drive four-wheel SUVs, so they all jumped into their cars and came out for Gore-Tex children’s snow boots,” said Denny Cassel, Owner of Little Steps children’s shoe store in Englewood, N.J. “We did excellent with the boots this year. This year was a big year for us in boots compared to the last five years because the snow finally arrived. When one snowstorm came, another one quickly followed.”

Though local schools in Brooklyn closed due to the snow, retailer Rick Lee of Soula shoes in Brooklyn, N.Y., was open for business. “It wasn’t that bad. Normally when we get extreme weather, it actually affects our business in a positive way,” he said. In past storms, customers have come in looking for waterproof boots and weather boots, but because spring is right around the corner, Lee said, the storm didn’t really boost boot sales last week. “At this point in the season, the storm didn’t do that much for us. If this happened in January, we’d be doing a big business in waterproof boots.”

And overall, Lee said, the winter season wasn’t disappointing. “We weren’t as strong as last year, but we had a pretty good boot season. There were several key boots we completely sold through.”

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