By  on January 7, 2014

The polar vortex. Even the name sounds ominous.

It’s the large pocket of very cold air — usually the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere — that sits over the polar region during the winter. This week, it found its way to southern Canada, the northern Plains, the Midwest and northeastern U.S., delivering a punch to retailers in the form of brutally cold temperatures and storms that kept stores closed and shoppers at home. This, after a holiday season that retail analysts are calling “anemic.” Planalytics calculated $5 billion in lost business for Monday and Tuesday, noting that about 200 million people have been affected by the weather.

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