NEW YORK — The weather outside may have been frightful, but the shopping inside wasn’t so bad for the handful of customers who made it in to retail doors in the area Sunday.

The first major blizzard of 2005 dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Midwest before walloping the Tri-State area Saturday and Sunday with upward of 13 inches of snow. The storm spawned messy roads, snarled public transportation and states of emergency in New York and New Jersey — but it didn’t discourage a few hardy souls seen shopping on 34th Street early Sunday afternoon.

Customers who trooped out into the weather Sunday tended to be one of two varieties: snowed-in tourists, or New Yorkers hoping to have stores to themselves. At H&M, one British tourist said, “Unfortunately, we did all of our sightseeing earlier in the week, and left shopping for yesterday and today. We’re meant to fly out at half eight tonight, but that doesn’t look likely.”

“We’ve only been open a year, so this is our first snowstorm. We’re sort of figuring it out as we go along,” said Wendy Ferreira, a supervisor for Lane Bryant. The 34th Street store opened an hour late, at noon, and by 12:30, had seen just one customer.

When asked why she was shopping on such a bitterly cold day — weather was expected to top out in the high teens Sunday with windchill temperatures far below zero — one Manhattanite in front of Express, said simply: “There are fewer people in the stores.”

And also fewer stores open. Express wasn’t open, as of 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, nor were the 34th Street outposts of Gap and Victoria’s Secret. Zara was scheduled to open half an hour late, at 12:30.

Banana Republic, however, opened right on time, though employees inside the store outnumbered customers five to one. Employees of the store’s cleaning service, who normally perform duties such as washing windows and vacuuming, were diverted on Sunday morning to shovel snow and mop up the slush tracked in on floors. “Normal [staff] attrition happens on a day like today — some of our employees were not able to make it in,” said Tom Williams, general manager of Banana Republic’s 34th Street store. Williams noted that many Banana Republic outposts in Manhattan did open on time, despite the challenging conditions.H&M and Macy’s Herald Square also opened on time, at 11 a.m.. 

Karen MacDonald, a spokesperson for Taubman, noted that five of the group’s centers on the Eastern Seaboard closed early Saturday, although most were expected to be opened for at least part of Sunday. The Fair Oaks Mall, in Fairfax, Va., closed at 6 p.m. Saturday; the Mall at Short Hills, at 3 p.m.; West Farms in Farmington, Conn., at 5 p.m.; and Regency Square and Stony Point Fashion Park, both in Richmond, Va., at 5 p.m. All except the Mall at Short Hills were expected to observe normal business hours Sunday. Short Hills was scheduled to open at 2 p.m., after crews cleared nearly 14 inches of snow from the mall’s parking lot. “I expect that we’ll see a fair number of shoppers Sunday and Monday,” said Taubman. “Everyone seems to have cabin fever.”

Elina Kazan, a spokesperson for Macy’s East, noted that an incomplete list of Macy’s closures Sunday included two Boston-area stores, in Braintree and Brockton, Mass. — although at press time the chain’s Boston Crossing outpost downtown remained open.

States of emergency were declared for New York City, Northern New Jersey and Suffolk County on Long Island Saturday night, with all scheduled by officials to be lifted Sunday night.

As of midday Sunday, blizzard warnings continued to be in effect for Northern New Jersey, New York City and Long Island, reaching up past Boston to the coast of Maine. By midday Sunday, snow near Boston was said to be falling at the rate of about 8 inches an hour; it was estimated that final tallies in the Boston area could reach 30 inches before the storm moves offshore.

— Sara James and Julie Naughton

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