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Retailers on Edge in Wake of Attack in Boston

Stores, shopping malls and other public places in major cities were on alert Monday following the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

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Retailers, shopping malls and other public places were on alert Monday in major cities throughout the U.S. and abroad following the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.

Stock markets were braced for a downturn today on fears of an economic slowdown related to the threat of terrorism. The VIX, or S&P Volatility Index, surged 43.2 percent to 17.27. Known as the “fear gauge,” the VIX rose to its highest level since Feb. 25.

In the wake of three explosions and what are said to be an additional five undetonated explosive devices found in the Boston area on Monday afternoon, Boston police and U.S. Homeland Security officials were trying to restore some sense of calm in downtown Boston and elsewhere even as major metropolitan cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles stepped up security. London officials also were said to be stepping up security in advance of the London Marathon, which takes place Sunday.

Copley Place — home to 75 stores including Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Barneys New York — closed late Monday afternoon and would remain closed today, according to a spokesman for Simon Property Group Inc., which owns the mall. The company is awaiting instructions from city officials.

Saks Fifth Avenue closed its store at 800 Boylston Street in Boston Monday afternoon and it was expected to remain closed today. Talbots also closed its store on 500 Boylston Street; it was expected to reopen when city officials approved others to.

J. Crew shut its Madewell store on Newbury Street and its three stores in Copley Place after the bombings and it also was unclear when these units would reopen.

Elsewhere, the New York City Police Department said it was stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations although no stores closed. Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said critical response teams were being deployed around the city until more about the explosions was learned.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I have directed state agencies, including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, State Police, the MTA and the Port Authority, to be on a heightened state of alert as we learn more about this incident.”

Officials in Los Angeles also stepped up security in public areas such as shopping malls, as did Chicago and Washington.

The 26.2-mile Boston Marathon was initially diverted and then suspended after two explosions rocked the packed finish line at 2:50 p.m. A third explosion was later reported at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Dorchester. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said, “The preliminary investigation indicates that the incident at the JFK may not have been an explosion. The device may have been incendiary in nature. It may have been a fire. The nature of the incident is uncertain at this time and the cause is still under investigation.”

At least three people were killed in the bombings near the marathon and scores injured. One published report pegged the number of injured at more than 100 people, but Boston Police officials declined to give a specific number at press time.

By Monday night, the Copley Square and Newbury Street areas were crawling with SWAT teams, unmarked police cars, FBI agents and bomb squads, according to two eyewitnesses at the scene. “There are police helicopters circling overhead and nothing but unmarked police cars parked all along the street. There are also people walking around the streets with rifles,” one woman said. “This is serious business.”

At a press conference early Monday evening, President Barack Obama said, “We still don’t know who did this or why. We will find out who did this and they will be held responsible.” 
 
State and federal officials advised people in the Boston area to stay at home, away from public, crowded places until the situation was deemed to be under control. The airspace above the area near the Prudential Center shopping mall was closed down, but Boston airports were still open, as were other major airports throughout the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Security agency did not issue any alerts and have not closed down any facilities such as ports or transportation centers, according to an official. In Washington, Pennsylvania Avenue was closed and the security perimeter around the White House had been expanded. Obama was said to have assembled his security team and was in touch with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. A White House official said, “This afternoon, the President received briefings from FBI Director Robert Mueller and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on the active investigation and response to the incident in Boston, including the ongoing coordination with state and local officials.”

At a press conference, Patrick said there was no prior warnings or threats before the bombings.

In its 117th year, the Boston Marathon has long been a major event for athletic companies like Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Reebok and Saucony. As one of the sponsors for the Boston Marathon, Adidas reportedly had 100 staffers at the race. Adidas America president Patrik Nilsson was said to be among the employees in Boston, but he was said to be at Logan International Airport at the time of the explosion.

An Adidas spokeswoman said Monday, “We are monitoring the situation carefully and are currently in the process of ensuring all of our employees are safe. We are shocked by the terrible news coming out of Boston. Our hearts and prayers go out to runners, spectators and their families at the Boston Marathon.”

New Balance, a Boston-based athletic company, had rented Solas, a bar near the finish line, for a private party. Chairman and founder Jim Davis said Monday, “To date, it appears that there are no New Balance casualties.”

Reebok and Nike, two other athletic giants that have a major presence at the race, had not returned requests for comment at press time.

While there is a NikeTown on Newbury Street, other Boston sporting goods stores were closer to the havoc — with the Marathon Sports being right next door to the Boylston Street explosion. The retailer’s Web site posted Twitter feeds listing such essential information as a hotline and a tips lines set up by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, as well as a link to Google’s person finder. The site also cautioned, “Please use hotlines and patience when trying to locate family. Please listen to authorities as they are investigating.”

Eastern Mountain Sports, City Sports and Olympia Sports also have stores on Boylston Street, as does Lord & Taylor, which is located near the marathon’s finish line at 760 Boylston Street.

On City Sports’ Web site, president and chief executive officer Eddie Albertian posted, “On a day when the world watches our great city with envy, we witnessed a terrible tragedy that has affected everyone associated with the Boston Marathon. Early reports suggest there are many serious injuries. On behalf of everyone at City Sports, we want to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to those touched by this senseless tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected.”

After the explosions near the finish line, Copley Place and the Prudential Center remained opened though many of the stores in each shopping center opted to close. Around 4 p.m. the Boston Police ordered the mandatory evacuation of Copley Place.

A Neiman Marcus spokeswoman said no damage occurred to the Boston location.
 
With Boston police, state and federal officials scouring the crime scene Monday night, Boston police issued numerous street closures Monday night. Clarendon Street from Huntington Avenue to Newbury Street was sealed off, Newbury Street from Clarendon Street to Hereford Street and Huntington Avenue from Belvedere to Clarendon Street. A police official could not say Monday night when downtown businesses would be free to reopen.

A spokesman from General Growth Properties, which owns the Natick Mall, among other shopping centers, said, “Every one of our malls has a customized public safety program. We prefer not to discuss the specifics of the program because that would compromise our public safety efforts. But I want to emphasize, the safety and well-being of our shoppers, retailers and employees are top priorities every day. We continue to keep a close watch on the events that occurred today in Boston.”

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