LOS ANGELES — Power was restored early this morning to all 1.4 million Southern California Gas & Electric customers affected in the San Diego area blackout that occurred Thursday afternoon, but the region’s largest power outage to date, which affected more than 5 million people from Mexico to Orange County, Calif. and east to Arizona, impacted retail and manufacturing to the tune of over $100 million dollars or lost sales and business.
“The scope of this was so significant that every one of our members was affected in some way, shape or form,” said Paul Webster, vice president of public policy at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Starbucks to large tech companies and everything in between had to shut down.”
Simon Property Group, which operates the high-end Fashion Valley mall in the San Diego suburb of Mission Valley, Calif., as well as two premium outlet centers in San Diego and Carlsbad, Calif., had to close early, as did the seven Westfield malls in San Diego County, including Westfield Horton Plaza, an open air mall in downtown San Diego that is anchored by Macy’s and Nordstrom.
“The power went out around 3:40 p.m. yesterday and our policy is to wait and see and let each of the 120 tenants decide what to do,” said Westfield Horton Plaza’s marketing director Michele Predko. “It took about two hours for most stores to come to the decision to close, but people were calm and handled it well considering we’ve never experienced anything like this. People even hung out in our common area, where it was a pleasant 80 degrees.”
The San Diego area, which includes affected cities such as Carlsbad, Calif., is also home is also home to action sports and outerwear manufacturers such as Insight, Prana and Reef as well as swim companies such as Vitamin A and Vix.
Many employees from Reef and Insight were actually in Orlando, Fla., for Surf Expo, the semiannual action sports trade show. The staff who had stayed at Reef’s Carlsbad headquarters faced the nuisance of losing computer data if they hadn’t saved any software programs before the power went out.
Prana, also based in Carlsbad, took the opportunity to do some work sans electronics. Prana founder Beaver Theodosakis joked with his employees, telling them: “Hey, guys, this is a chance for us to do all the great work we can do without computers, like we did a mere 20 years ago.”
Since the blackout happened toward the end of the business day, Prana employees went home soon after it hit. “Today, fortunately, things were back up and running, so it didn’t affect us too much here at Prana,” Theodosakis said.
Economists said that the loss productivity from the blackout was far less than the $900 million lost during the two-day stoppage in business caused by the 2007 wildfires.
“We are basing that on the fact that the blackout occurred at 4 p.m., near the end of the business day, and that power was restored early Friday morning. I would say the retail tune would be a low eight-figure amount,” said Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. “It has more to do with a shift in retail that would have occurred Thursday evening that will shift into this weekend.”
He also estimated that in the second quarter of 2011 San Diego County did $652 million in apparel sales, so a reasonable estimate for a Thursday such as September 9 would be between $3 and $4 million in apparel sales that could have been lost due to the blackout.