LOS ANGELES — Retailers here said sales appeared to be bouncing back over the weekend after a dropoff Thursday in the wake of a threat advisory of a potential terrorist attack at an unspecified Westside mall.
Police Chief William J. Bratton called off the alert late Friday, yet security remained more visible than usual at busy shopping centers through the weekend.
At Westside Pavilion, a ghost town Thursday and less than two miles from the Federal Building, which was cited in the anonymous tip to federal officials, traffic, as well as uniformed police and security, returned the next business day.
“I think we’ll be fine after today,” said Guess store manager Jessica DeCarlo on Friday. DeCarlo, echoing other retailers there, saw Friday sales bounce back after a dismal Thursday. “We’re better off than the Century City store, where a manager told me they had police and FBI in and out all day.”
That Guess store, at nearby Westfield Shoppingtown Century City, saw a trickle return Friday, as did other retailers in the outdoor mall. Customers enthusiastically sampled at cosmetics counters at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, while others strolled the courtyards clutching shopping bags.
Kay Braden, 21, a UCLA music major, said the threat advisory crossed her mind as she neared school Thursday and caught a glimpse of the Federal Building. “But if it was well known enough to get on the news, the chance of something happening had to be slim,” she opined.
Some retailers worried the terror alert could put a damper on sales the weekend before Mother’s Day, which is next Sunday. That day traditionally rings up big business, particularly for florists, card shops, jewelers, food and apparel retailers. According to a survey conducted by BIGresearch by the National Retail Federation, consumers plan to spend an average of $98.64 on Mother’s Day gifts this year, up 1.3 percent from $97.37 last year. Total Mother’s Day spending nationally is seen exceeding $10 billion.
By Saturday, however, there was little sign locals — nervous or not — were staying away from malls — even those by the beach, as temperatures soared into the mid-80s.
At oceanside Santa Monica Place, young shoppers had more than Mother’s Day on their minds. “We considered not coming, but we have prom coming up and we have to shop,” said Santa Monica High School senior Jessie Kugelmeir, 18. Added classmate Zinaida Georgieva, 18, “My mom said, ‘Just shop quickly and leave.’”
Kenneth Cole manager Bryan Sanders said Saturday he remained anxious. “Thursday was dead, you could see the actual effect of the threats. It spilled over into Friday, when the energy was also really low. I’m hoping things get back to normal today.”
Nearby at BCBG, manager Amber Newsome said following a dip in sales Thursday, numbers were back to normal by Saturday. “People stayed away initially, but they came back quickly,” she said.
Macy’s released this statement regarding its stores in Santa Monica, Century City, Westside Pavilion and Beverly Center: “We are taking some extra precautions with deliveries and premises security, but we believe discussing security matters in any detail is counterproductive.”
Nordstrom spokeswoman Deniz Anders said the company was “looking to authorities for direction” for its units at Westside Pavilion and the Grove. Both were crowded by mid-day Saturday.
Neither Macy’s nor Nordstrom would discuss an impact on sales.
But Tim Lyons, a spokesman for J.C. Penney, with 25 stores in a 40-mile radius from the middle of Los Angeles, said the company wasn’t affected by the terror alert and posted sales gains last Thursday. California is the chain’s second biggest market, next to Texas.
“The good news is the mood of shoppers seems to be almost back to normal. You can tell by the noise level in the air,” said Beverly Center marketing director Barbara Bach Saturday afternoon. “Strictly anecdotally, it looks like business is up.”
In fact, at American Eagle Outfitters at Beverly Center, manager Amy Nicholson hadn’t noticed a change in her numbers. “Judging from the parking lot, the whole mall is as busy as ever,” she said Friday evening, adding she has received threat alert memos from mall security in the past, and “didn’t think this one was a big deal until I saw it on the news.”
Even that didn’t stop shopper Amy Bee, 33, an apparel sales rep, toting several Bloomingdale’s bags. “I saw the Beverly Center on the news yesterday [Thursday] and it didn’t affect my decision to shop here. I’d shop at the other [Westside] malls, too.”
— With contributions from David Moin, New York