While Stella was downgraded from a blizzard to a winter storm, on Tuesday she caused disruptions across the Northeast and Midwest, and the impact will be felt well into next week, experts said. More than 130 million people are affected by the storm, including those in cities such as Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a state of emergency before the storm started. On Monday afternoon, the city announced that public schools would be closed today, as did cities throughout Westchester, Northern New Jersey and Long Island. The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority suspended above ground trains at 4 a.m. Tuesday and Metro North stopped service at noon. Amtrak shut down its New York to Boston route and airlines canceled more than 7,500 flights.
Planalytics estimated the economic impact of the storm will be $310 million for apparel, including specialty mall-based and independent retailers and department stores. This is in comparison to the same week of last year.
Taubman Centers said the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., Stamford Town Center in Stamford Conn., and Westfarms in West Hartford, Conn. were closed on Tuesday. Simon Property Group kept 21 shopping centers shuttered on Tuesday, including the Shops at Nanuet in Nanuet, N.Y.; The Westchester in White Plains, N.Y.; The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, N.J., and Newport Centre in Jersey City. Premium Outlets, including Woodbury Common, Harriman, N.Y., Philadelphia, and The Crossings in Tannersville, Pa., were also closed.
Westfield World Trade Center advised customers that due to the storm individual retailers’ hours could vary. Westfield Garden State Plaza was closed but plans to reopen Wednesday. Several Wal-Mart stores were closed in New Jersey and would “reopen when conditions warrant,” the company said.
While the storm is expected to move offshore today, the lingering cold temperatures in the Northeast will deter consumers from visiting the mall, said Evan Gold, executive vice president of global services for Planalytics Business Weather Intelligence. “Most markets through this weekend are trending 10 degrees to 20 degrees below normal. We’re comping the fifth warmest day of last year. Even if the roads clear, there will be snow on the ground, which doesn’t put people in a spring mind-set.”
Consumers got a hint of spring in February, which was the second-warmest in recent memory. “Spring got off to a great start, but now it’s come to a screeching halt,” Gold said. “The only saving grace is that Easter is falling later this year, so “there will be a little bit more runway to make up the business.”
Home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s have even more at stake. “It’s their Christmas right now,” said Gold. “People are going to Lowe’s and Home Depot for shovels and ice melt, but that’s not what they want to be selling now. We’re estimating the impact of the storm on home centers is going to be $1.2 billion.”