Tags: US | Holiday | Shopping | Winter | Weather

Winter Weather Could Slow Holiday Shoppers

Friday, 18 Dec 2009 02:00 PM

Snowy predictions in the Northeast may have storybook holiday charm, but they're not raising the spirits of retailers counting on shoppers to give them a brisk finish to the season.

A wet storm that hit the Southeast beginning late Thursday could bring snow to much of the Atlantic Seaboard beginning Saturday, The National Weather Service warned.

Washington, D.C., could get 10 to 16 inches of snow, and the New York region 5 to 10 inches, although the track of the storm is still uncertain, so much less snow is also a possibility.

For retailers already facing restrained holiday shoppers, stormy weather on the last Saturday before Christmas, sometimes the busiest shopping day of the year, could lead to the loss of sales they won't get back, experts said.

"A snowstorm like this is not good news," said Scott Burnhardt of weather research firm Planalytics. "This is 'Super Saturday,' we're talking about well over $1 billion traded on this day."

Stores with a heavy concentration in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including Bon-Ton Stores, DSW Shoe Warehouse and Kohl's Inc., will be affected the most, he said. Those stores did not immediately return calls for comment.

Smaller, independent stores are often the most vulnerable to bad weather.

"It's the busiest day of the year. If it happens, it will cost me thousands of dollars," said Geoff Stern, owner of toy store The Toy Professor in Summit, N.J.

"When you lose a day of sales between now and Dec. 25, you don't make it up," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe. "If you're closed for business on Saturday, you're not going to do twice the business on Sunday."

Still, he added that even if major storms don't materialize, media coverage might make shoppers stay home.

"When the radio says 'Stay tuned, don't leave your house, this is the storm of '09," no matter if the storm happens or not, that's going to be bad for business, he said.

Todd Dickinson, owner of Aarons's Books in Lititz, Pa., said he has had a good December, and if there isn't much snow tomorrow, he expects it to be one of the best days of the year. But "if it's bad weather, it's tough to think about the day that could have been."

Michael Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers, said that a storm would put a dent in weekend sales regionally, but might not be enough to affect the season as a whole.

"Will it be so detrimental to the season, probably not to the extent that we still have a fair amount of days ahead of Christmas," he said. He did not change his forecast of total sales to rise about 1 percent for November and December.

Mark Needell, owner of Needells shoe store in Summit, N.J., said any snowstorm would be difficult, although he predicted he might sell a lot of sheepskin-lined UGGs boots.

Still, there would be one silver lining.

"It always looks good," he said. "It does look nice and gets you in the mood."

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Snowy predictions in the Northeast may have storybook holiday charm, but they're not raising the spirits of retailers counting on shoppers to give them a brisk finish to the season.A wet storm that hit the Southeast beginning late Thursday could bring snow to much of the...
US,Holiday,Shopping,Winter,Weather
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2009-00-18
Friday, 18 Dec 2009 02:00 PM
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