- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers jammed the nation’s malls on the last weekend before Christmas, snapping up bargains and hunting for popular toys, but retailers were anxious after a much-hoped-for sales bonanza did not materialize for many of them.

Spirits, moreover, were deflated yesterday after the government warned about threats of a terrorist attack during the holiday season.

In response to the heightened national alert level to Code Orange, major mall operators such as Taubman Centers Inc., which owns and manages 31 shopping centers in 13 states, immediately stepped up their security, though company officials declined to elaborate.

“The threat won’t have an effect this weekend, because most people don’t know about the alert,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, based in Charleston, S.C. “But it could reduce retailers’ ability to have a huge business on Monday and Tuesday, and the week after Christmas. It may likely make people who are close to being done decide they’ve purchased enough.”

Retailing executives yesterday appeared unfazed.

Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman at the National Retail Federation, said that “since September 11, consumers have learned to go on with their lives,” and she doesn’t foresee a reduction in traffic.

Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman, said: “Consumers learned to be vigilant, and I don’t think this will have an effect” on their shopping.

She reported that sales at a sampling of Taubman mall stores were up in the middle single digits on Saturday from a year ago.

Nevertheless, the raised alert is the latest headache for merchants who are counting on heavy shopping this week to meet their goals.

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