By  on October 15, 2008

California retail, apparel and beauty firms were bracing for the fallout from wildfires that swept across Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley and San Diego-area communities Tuesday.

Marie Patterson, co-owner of Naya Fresh Body Spa in Chatsworth, which closed Monday and opened Tuesday for part of the day, said the eco-spa was “dead” as a result of the fires. Patterson said the financial crisis had already hurt her high-end customers, and she expected the fires to add to their concerns.

“It will impact the short term because my direct community has been devastated, and those people are not going to be able to come in for their regular appointments because they are going to be worried about insurance claims and their homes,” she said. “All the luxuries go out the window.”

The fires, which are stoked by ferocious Santa Ana winds, come at a precarious time as the biggest U.S. market struggles with rising unemployment, tepid consumer spending, a $3 billion state revenue shortfall and other troubles amid global economic turmoil.

“The mood is sour — putting it mildly,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “If you are in the immediate area [of the fires], it would impact you. If you don’t live in the immediate area, you watch it closely, and it is another thing going on in this crazy, topsy-turvy world.”

Large retailers in the fire-stricken communities include Wal-Mart, which has a store in the Porter Ranch Town Center, and J.C. Penney, which has a unit in the city of San Fernando. Mall operator Westfield has three properties in the San Fernando Valley — Westfield Topanga Plaza, Westfield Promenade and Westfield Fashion Square — that it said were largely unaffected. “We are monitoring because…things can change quickly,” said a Westfield spokeswoman.

A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles and Ventura counties Monday.

Even in areas that were not evacuated, train service disruptions and highway closures kept customers from shopping and employees from reporting to work.

“It is going to be a financial burden for everybody that this is happening right now,” said Pablo Solis, owner of Jim’s Western Wear in Chatsworth, about 3 miles from the fires. “Their focus is going to be on other things besides clothing.”

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