Retailers in the mid-Atlantic up through New England are expected to get socked with another snowstorm, and this time there’s likely no escape for New York and Boston, which were spared last weekend’s blizzard.
As far as New York Fashion Week, the shows must go on. The second big storm of 2010, seen hitting tonight and Wednesday, could make it difficult for buyers, designers, models and editors to get in and around Manhattan. But organizers aren’t very worried, noting the collections officially start Thursday; many out-of-towners involved in fashion week don’t come right at the outset anyway; the city cleans up fast, and the pileup won’t be as big as last weekend’s.
Along the mid-Atlantic from Virginia to New Jersey, 2 to 3 feet of snow fell last weekend. This week, 6 to 12 inches are expected, according to Planalytics, a weather service for retailers and Spending Pulse.
“Things will go on with the snow,” said Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “From where I sit, I don’t think it’s a problem. IMG has experience with bad weather and tents. They are prepared. If the snow comes, it comes, and you adapt accordingly. People will break out their boots and stylish winter gear, and truck around town. You can’t really fight Mother Nature. The city responds very quickly.”
From the CFDA’s perspective, there’s no room to change the show schedule anyway. “We’ve got to live with it,” Kolb said. “London is right after, then Milan and Paris. It’s not like a ball game,” where you have rain dates. “It’s about adapting.” If anyone misses a show, they can see it online or visit the showroom, he added.
On Monday, the tents were being constructed on schedule for the first runway shows Thursday, and the exterior structures were complete, according to IMG.
“We follow the guidance of city and state authorities regarding the handling of weather-related conditions and the event,” said a spokesman for IMG, which operates the shows. “The tents in Bryant Park are a temporary structure that can withstand quite a bit of inclement weather, so barring a true emergency, the shows will go on.”
“The good news is that stores should be all dug out by at least Friday,” in time for their big President’s Day and Valentine’s Day promotions, said Scott A. Bernhardt, chief operating officer of Planalytics. “But it will still be cold and wintry. That won’t help spring sales.” President’s Day is Monday. On the other hand, Planalytics estimated winter wear sales were up 18 percent in the Northeast last week and should be up 115 percent this week. The National Retail Federation says Valentine’s Day represents about $14 billion in consumer spending in the U.S.
The other good news is that while last weekend’s storm hurt business across six states, fortunately, it wasn’t a very important volume period, particularly for fashion retail. Many consumers would have stayed home anyway preparing Super Bowl parties, and more apt to shop for groceries.
Still, last weekend’s snowstorm was massive enough to catch the attention of President Obama, who dubbed it “snowmageddon.” The storm paralyzed the mid-Atlantic, disrupting power, travel and retail. Hundreds of thousands of homes were affected, and more than 50,000 customers remained without power on Monday in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, according to local reports. On Monday, the federal government and the majority of public schools in the area stayed closed, while major airports operated few flights and public transportation remained limited.
The storm forced the closure of the Washington metro area’s shopping malls in Virginia and Maryland, but most were back to normal on Monday. The Westfield Montgomery Shopping Mall in Bethesda, Md., which houses Macy’s, Nordstrom and 190 specialty shops, closed Saturday, had 65 percent of its stores open Sunday and most also opened Monday, according to Emily Kosash, assistant general manager. “Unfortunately, Mother Nature took its toll on us,” Kosash said. “We haven’t had as much snow here for over 14 years.”
Over the weekend, 88 Macy’s stores in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., had to modify their hours because of the storm. The biggest impact was Saturday, when 70 stores (65 Macy’s and five Bloomingdale’s) were closed. A smaller number of locations closed early on Friday and Saturday or opened later than scheduled on Sunday. Furniture and mattress deliveries on Saturday were postponed across the region.
At the peak of the storm on Saturday, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club were forced to close 68 units across Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Several stores on Monday remained closed, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said. “We’re monitoring the closed facilities to ensure they are safe for customers and associates,” she said, adding she was not aware of any significant damage to the units.
A Target Corp. spokesman said business was disrupted at about 70 stores, which closed early Friday and remained closed Saturday. Most of the units reopened on Sunday, later than usual — stores typically open at 8 a.m. — and all were operating on normal schedules Monday. Target operates 46 units in Virginia, 36 in Maryland and one in the District of Columbia.
“The storm didn’t hit a lot of our stores,” said Mary Kerr, vice president of public and investor relations for the 278-unit Bon-Ton department store chain. “It wasn’t a major sale weekend.”
Nevertheless, a storm as large as the last one “definitely has an impact on retail,” said Ken Gillett, senior vice president of property management for Macerich, which owns Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. “Even if we keep our shopping centers open, it is still difficult for shoppers and store employees,” he said.
Tysons Corner prepared in advance, Gillett said, stockpiling equipment and salt and arranging for operations employees to stay nearby.
H&M said most of its 19 stores in Washington, Virginia and Maryland closed early on Friday and all day Saturday, except for two unaffected in Virginia Beach, Va. About half the stores opened on Sunday, and all opened on schedule Monday.