By and  on January 11, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Retailers in Southern California, after five days of pounding rains and snow in higher elevations that have caused at least nine deaths, said that the severe weather deterred some shoppers, though other stores reported normal activity.

While there was no definitive assessment on retailing and apparel manufacturing as of late Monday, the weather was affecting millions of lives from Horton Plaza in San Diego to Union Square in San Francisco.

Some dedicated consumers defied the elements even as conditions closed some roads and schools, forced evacuations and triggered scores of traffic accidents.

“We were impacted very noticeably on Saturday,” said Fred Levine, owner of the contemporary boutique chain M. Fredric, which operates 19 locations around Southern California. “But surprisingly, on Sunday, when the rains were worse, business was as good as a normal Sunday.”

He attributed the brisk business to customers’ cabin fever. “I think they had waited long enough and just wanted to get out.”

The stores only had minor water damage with a “few drips here and there,” he said.

A record 2.58 inches of rain was recorded Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, and as much as 7 inches of rain fell in parts of Southern California from Friday to Sunday.

The weekend was normal, and gift card spending was brisk, said Jennifer Halloway, spokeswoman for the Simon Property-owned Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

At the Lola Rouge boutique at the Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, “we got a lot of die-hard shoppers who come to us as a destination, but the center isn’t as busy when it rains,” said co-owner Sandy Johnson.

Johnson said the weekend was not as bad as it could have been. “It rains so little that it really isn’t going to affect our overall business,’’ she said. “This week is a blip in the year.”

Even some of Rodeo Drive’s usually fastidious well-heeled shoppers braved the winds and rain as they fled from shop to salon to restaurant, many of which appeared to be surprisingly busy.

“The rain is not going to stop a Hollywood woman,” said Michelle Webb, owner of Catwalk, a mostly vintage store in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.She said the store had a particularly strong weekend, and attributed it to glitzy customers coming in for fittings for events related to Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. Even a leak in the back of the store didn’t disrupt business, said Webb. No gowns were damaged.

“If they make it in the door, they’re buying,” said Wendy Freedman-Borsuk, owner of Polkadots & Moonbeams, a vintage shop here.

The deluge on Sunday afternoon didn’t keep cars from lining up along two blocks to enter the car park at the new Target complex in West Hollywood.

A number of apparel firms said they had employee absences because of road closures, including John Paul Richard Inc., a misses’-focused firm based in Calabasas, about 40 miles north of downtown L.A. and south of the 101 Freeway.

Some weren’t able to come into work on Monday because of mud slides that closed a 10-mile stretch of the 101 Freeway between Ventura and Santa Barbara. California Highway Patrol officials in Santa Barbara said they weren’t certain if the highway would be open by Tuesday.

While there were no reports of actual shipping delays, those impassable highways were leading to traffic snarls and trucking delays, said John Paul Beltran, co-chief executive officer of John Paul Richard.

“We’ve experienced an additional day or two for deliveries and we’ve had some employees working overtime just to make sure we can get the goods out on time,” he said.

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