NEW YORK — The blizzard of ’05, which dropped as much as an inch of snow every 10 minutes on some cities, may have closed malls and shopping centers from the Midwest to the Northeast, but it will not be abominable to retailers’ top-line results.

Saturday was the worst day of the weekend for most companies in the Tri-State and New England regions, which took the brunt of the storm’s fury. But retailers said Monday that the storm’s overall impact on sales will probably be minimal, in part because the clearance month of January is the smallest sales month of the year on a percentage basis for most retail chains.

Also, the storm has likely created pent-up demand. Retailers said consumers could return to the mall to fulfill their craving to shop, which will counteract store closings or delayed openings that swept through the region. (For more on what shoppers bought this weekend, see related story on page 17.)

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman said 42 Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Clubs were closed in New England over the weekend.

“We’ll play it by ear,” said the spokeswoman, Sharon Weber. “We’re trying to put some kind of normalcy back into the lives of our customers,” most whom have been shut up in their homes for the better part of three days.

The retailer saw an increase in traffic prior to the storm thanks to customers who stocked up on shovels and related equipment in preparation for the severe weather. Weber said there was no major weather damage done to the company’s stores in New England.

On Monday, customer traffic was returning to normal, Weber added, even as some of the reopened stores were operating on skeleton crews because the roads were still unsafe for certain employees to return to work.

At Gap Inc., spokeswoman Kris Marubio said the specialty retailer has seen “no material impact to the business” due to the storm. The company, however, does not comment on the state of individual stores. Gap has nearly 400 stores in the Tri-State area and just over 90 stores in Massachusetts.

Marubio said trucks were on the road and making deliveries on Monday, even as one of Gap’s major distribution centers, located in Fishkill, N.Y., was hit with about 20 inches of snow.Meanwhile, at least two malls in Rhode Island, Providence Place in Providence and Warwick Mall in Warwick, were closed on Monday. Providence Place said on a telephone recording that it was closed “due to weather-related issues.”

Some malls across Massachusetts were also closed on Monday, including Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, which was expected to reopen on Tuesday. The Arsenal Mall in Watertown, Mass., was closed on Sunday and reopened on Monday.

Steve Gartner, president of Metro Commercial Real Estate Inc., which provides leasing and management and is based in Philadelphia, said retailers had closed early on Saturday.

“We had some issues in Philadelphia. Saturday was an all-day snow event, so other than early morning when there were mostly grocery and home improvement sales, many retailers closed early,” he explained. “Sunday was even more interesting because the Eagles were in the NFC championship. It was a very slow shopping day other than some people digging out and buying convenience items. It was pretty much a completely dead shopping weekend.”

Merrill Lynch analyst Daniel Barry said in a Monday research report that while the cold weather should increase demand for winter apparel this week, it “should be too little too late for those retailers with too much winter merchandise in their stores.”

The analyst predicted that retailers like Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores “should have a difficult time, as the warm spell in the West continues to drive demand for spring apparel, forcing these retailers to take heavy markdowns” on winter inventories. 

— Meredith Derby and Amy S. Choi

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