By  on May 17, 2006

BOSTON — Torrential rains that triggered New England's worst flooding in 70 years appear to have cut — but not devastated — retail spending.

Many merchants expressed gratitude for Mother's Day on Sunday, which compelled shoppers to go out Saturday in search of gifts.

"We were fortunate enough to be running a special sale, which got some of our regulars out to shop," said Alice Maloney, manager of Secrets boutique in Melrose, Mass. The town closed a dozen streets and declared a state of emergency after the sewers overflowed.

"The situation was pretty brutal on [Boston's] Newbury Street for a lot of retailers," said Riccardo Dallai Jr., owner of denim boutique Riccardi. "I think a lot of people went to Barneys instead, parked in the garage of the Copley mall, ate, shopped and didn't even get touched by the rain. It's definitely more of a deterrent for this street."

His store fared reasonably well, thanks to hotel concierges who sent several cooped-up families — in town for college graduations — to shop.

Others fared better. Issie Shait, a vice president of Cambridgeside Galleria Mall in Cambridge, Mass., said traffic rose 37 percent over last year on Saturday.

"Aside from a few small leaks, the tenants have been very pleased," he said.

A foot or more of rain has soaked the New England coastline, from Boston to southern Maine. The downpour started late Friday and continued through Tuesday. Areas west and south of Boston received about 8 inches of rain.

The governors of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine declared states of emergency. Schools and highways closed and thousands of people struggled with flooded basements and no electricity or hot water.

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