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Some L.A. Stores Reopen Today; Others Turn To Sales Promotions

LOS ANGELES -- Several Westside stores here are expected to reopen their doors today, and others are scrambling for ways to generate business in what is best described as a difficult market.<BR><BR>Stores in Santa Monica Place will reopen for business...

LOS ANGELES — Several Westside stores here are expected to reopen their doors today, and others are scrambling for ways to generate business in what is best described as a difficult market.

Stores in Santa Monica Place will reopen for business today, nine days after last week’s devastating earthquake. While mall officials have downplayed damage suffered by the Frank Gehry-designed building, sources said the center suffered structural and water damage. The center’s anchors — The Broadway and Robinsons-May — are expected to reopen Saturday after cleanup from water damage is finished.

While these stores will be eager for customers to return, others that have been open have turned to promotions to boost business, which a few stores estimated has dropped more than 50 percent.

Some are advertising “earth-shattering” savings, while Na Na Trading Co., located on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, is using the tag line “The Big One Is Coming” to describe its current sale. Na Na co-owner Paul Kaufman said that the quake “definitely is hurting business,” despite the fact that the store suffered only minor damage. He said he hoped the ad for the store would remind customers about replacing items that were lost.

“Na Na has some practical things, but we might not be the first place that people think about,” Kaufman said.

“On the whole, however, there is too much going on here for time to stand still in Los Angeles. Unless your house is totally destroyed, you’re going to want to get on with your life,” he said.

Elsewhere, The Broadway gave away hot dogs and had a jazz band playing in its Beverly Center women’s apparel department over the weekend. And Bullock’s has set up a registry system, much like a bridal registry, to help residents replace items lost in the earthquake.

Meanwhile, the status of several buildings near the temblor’s epicenter is shifting as much as the ground underneath.

The Bullock’s in Sherman Oaks, which last week was reported to be condemned, now may be saved, said a spokeswoman for R.H. Macy & Co. The Broadway, which had a store in the condemned Northridge Fashion Center, still has five branches closed in the Los Angeles area.

“Literally, every day things change,” said spokeswoman for The Broadway. “Now, we hear that Northridge might not be a total loss, and Panorama, which we thought was worse because of the aftershocks, might not be so bad after all and might reopen sooner.”

Broadway units in Panorama and Sherman Oaks might open within two to four months.

For other stores, part of the job now is letting vendors and others in the rest of the country know that all is not rubble here.

At Ron Ross, a specialty store in Studio City, co-owner Patty Ross has spent much of her time this week on the phone assuring people the store will bounce back when it opens in several weeks. At that time, Ron Ross will continue its sale that began Jan. 6.

Don Tronstein, a Beverly Hills retail developer whose properties include Giorgio Armani on Rodeo Drive, said the challenge now for retailers and the city is to let the world know that much of the city is still functioning.

“These television anchors love to fly in and tell the world that L.A. is a disaster,” Tronstein said. “This is not to take away from the misery many are suffering, but there were a lot of areas that weren’t even touched. Downtown L.A. was not even touched. In all of the Beverly Hills triangle, maybe there are one or two windows boarded up. To say that Rodeo Drive is full of glass in ridiculous.”

Retailer Fred Hayman said it will take some work for the region to replace the image of wildfires and earthquakes with palm trees and sunny beaches.

“The pluses outweigh the minuses in Southern California, and disasters happen elsewhere, but people can’t possibly think of the positives during these circumstances,” Hayman said. “But it will be like the floods, like the fires. People will forget. They can’t dwell on it forever.”