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Shoppers Say, ‘Let It Snow’

NEW YORK — Despite the heavy snow Thursday that blanketed much of the East Coast, caused power outages, closed schools and triggered huge airport delays, Manhattan shoppers were not cowed. In fact, early dismissals from work due to the inclement...

NEW YORK — Despite the heavy snow Thursday that blanketed much of the East Coast, caused power outages, closed schools and triggered huge airport delays, Manhattan shoppers were not cowed. In fact, early dismissals from work due to the inclement weather may have actually spiked sales.

“Business is excellent. Everyone is out of work early and shopping,” said Sarah Easley, co-owner of the Kirna Zabete boutique in SoHo.

While customers were shopping for the holidays, they were also in part buying for themselves. “I think they came in with the intent to shop for Christmas, but this year we have about a hundred gifts under a $100…so they are buying four or five gifts and then a pair of boots or a holiday top for themselves,” said Easley. Customers at the store bought up items from Matthew Williamson’s newly launched home collection, Pucci resort bikinis, stocking stuffers and gifts for pets.

At Barneys New York, business was equally brisk. “Business is very good today. We’re not quite sure if it’s the snow or that it’s the second day of our designer sales, but people are definitely shopping,” said a Barneys spokeswoman in regards to the Madison Avenue store as well as both Co-ops downtown. Barneys has heavily advertised its sale, which offers 30 to 40 percent off designer merchandise

Shoppers even made their way to the hard-to-reach Meatpacking District. “We’ll beat our day, I would imagine, over last year same day, but I was surprised at the amount of traffic in the store,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of Jeffrey New York. “Lots of people are out, carrying umbrellas and taking taxis, I imagine, because for a Thursday at this time, we’ve got a good day going.”

Stefani Greenfield, co-owner of the Scoop boutiques, said the uptown Scoop store was “actually packed today,” but she had to close her stores in East Hampton and Greenvale, N.Y., because of the weather. Due to the big sales (30 to 50 percent off) that are under way at the retailer now, customers are still phoning in orders even if the weather is keeping them indoors, according to Greenfield.

This story first appeared in the December 6, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s slow at our downtown store in SoHo because the snow has affected traffic, but people actually live near our store uptown,” said Greenfield. “The bright light is that it’s hot as hell in Miami, and it’s rocking ’n’ rolling at our store down there.”

But while city sidewalks might be busy, some malls outside Manhattan were forced to close early. The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey closed at 4 p.m., while an early close was also a possibility for the Stamford Town Center in Connecticut, according to Steve Helm, regional vice president of Taubman Centers.

In the Washington, D.C. area, the heart of the storm hit during early morning rush hour. Heavy snowfall tapered off around midday and the region was spared the severe icing seen from Oklahoma to the Carolinas that turned roads into ice rinks.

Despite major arteries being plowed and passable, Washington-area shoppers didn’t appear to have Christmas shopping on their minds. Empty downtown streets and darkened offices were evidence many workers stayed home, even if federal offices remained open.

“It’s been very, very slow today, as you can imagine,” said Rod Renner, general manager of Tysons Galleria in McLean, Va. However, Renner wasn’t worried about one lackluster day hurting Christmas season sales, which he said thus far have been “encouraging.”

About 30 miles east of Washington at Westfield Shopping Town in Annapolis, Md., customer traffic was “light,” according to Joe Bellio, general manager for the mall, which has 170 specialty stores and anchors Nordstrom, Hecht’s, Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney and Sears. “We rallied and got most everybody open today.”

In Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, Marylyn Lazarus, a sales person at Betsy Fisher, was a bit worried the weather would keep customers from a jewelry trunk show scheduled for 5 p.m. By lunch time, the usual pre-show traffic hadn’t materialized.