SUNSHINE STATE STORES DRAINING AFTER RAINS

Byline: Michael Marlow

LOS ANGELES--California retailers began mopping up Wednesday from this week's floods and mud slides, generally suffering from leaky roofs and lost business but no major damage.
Reports of new storms approaching the coast, however, are causing plenty of anxiety about business for the rest of the week.
Smaller retailers, especially in coastal towns, were hit hardest and remained closed Wednesday or struggled to reopen. Meanwhile, executives at larger chains, including Macy's and The Broadway, began drafting plans to help customers affected by floods.
Broadway Stores Inc. announced that payments would be deferred for three months interest-free on credit card purchases by those in affected areas. An executive at Macy's West/Bullock's said the store would soon announce a policy to help its customers in flooded areas.
The scenario is familiar to the state's retailers, many of whom have perfected disaster response plans after the riots, wildfires, earthquakes and floods of recent years. This latest blow, however, comes as the state is showing signs of an economic comeback. Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association, remains an optimist, saying that floods and mud slides--while providing dramatic television footage--will have little impact on what he called "California's resurgence."
"All the basics are still there for the economy to continue recovering," Dombrowski said. "This isn't on the scale of an earthquake."
That assurance, echoed by economists on local newscasts, did little to reassure retailers and residents. Most stores and shopping centers In Los Angeles closed earlier in the week and reopened Wednesday, but retailers in Malibu, Laguna Beach and other coastal cities remained closed as evacuations of some residents continued as a result of storm damage.
Many residents took the day off to assess flood damage and begin storm-related repairs.
A spokeswoman for Mervyn's, which operates 127 units in the state, said all stores were open Wednesday. Like most retailers in the state, Mervyn's reported of leaky roofs but no major damage.
"It's got to be better than [Tuesday]," the spokeswoman said about business. "[Tuesday's] priority was to sandbag your house, not go shopping."
At Broadway Stores Inc., all units that closed Tuesday because of floods were up and operating Wednesday afternoon. Several of the chain's 83 stores, including many of those in the Sacramento area, closed early Tuesday night at the request of local law enforcement officials but reopened Wednesday morning.
In Northern California, sunshine on Wednesday brought relief to an area that has been battered by heavy rains the last week. But not all business was washed away. At LYZ, a designer boutique in Larkspur, volume was steady throughout much of the week, spurred in part by a popular sale on winter merchandise.
Elizabeth Schumacher, sales manager for LYZ and designer Lily Samii, said the store closed early Monday but has kept regular hours on other days despite high winds, power outages, flood waters and downed trees. "What's really bizarre is business has been good," Schumacher said. "People were really stir crazy, but it is a real disaster zone up here."

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