- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

President's Day weekend was a bust instead of a boon for retailers, who will spend the rest of the month trying to recoup almost three days of sales lost to the massive snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast.
Most stores in the Washington region remained closed yesterday, leaving extra inventory on shelves and killing any chance for a holiday sales boost.
"The fact they weren't getting sales this weekend is going to hurt," said Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. "It's going to be hard to recoup this weekend's sales."
Every major shopping center in the region was closed Sunday and yesterday, including Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery and Wheaton, Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria in McLean, and White Flint mall in Rockville.
Simon Property Group Inc., the nation's largest owner of shopping malls, closed most of its properties in the Northeast, including the Bowie Town Center and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Most Simon malls are expected to reopen today.
"It has been a very pervasive storm," said Billie Scott, spokeswoman for Indianapolis-based Simon. "The good news is that we don't have to close our properties too often. This is rare."
Retailers said President's Day usually boosts sales in the middle of what is otherwise an unremarkable shopping period. February is generally used to unload excess winter inventories and introduce spring fashions. But many stores said they were shifting their attention to meeting customers' post-storm demands.
"The key for us is how we'll be prepared once the customers start coming back," said Tom Williams, a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokesman. "They'll be out shopping for sure, and the key for us is staying in stock."
Mr. Williams said the nation's largest retailer closed stores as far south as Harrisonburg, Va., and as far north as Rhode Island. All stores in New Jersey were closed, he said, as well as nearly every store in the Philadelphia area.
May Department Stores Inc., owner of Hecht's and Lord & Taylor, closed 100 of its 443 stores.
Wal-Mart and other stores that carry snow-related products and equipment were scrambling to restock shelves yesterday.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. spokeswoman Peggy Palter said the company expects a run on shovels, snow blowers and salt.
"We do see the sales rebound afterward," she said. "We're working hard to get as much into the stores as quickly as possible."
Some retailers, including Sears, said they would extend President's Day discounts through today.

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