- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Washingtonians emerged slowly from their snowbound homes yesterday with many heading to shopping centers that have been closed since Sunday.
Stores hope to recover at least slightly from the lackluster Presidents Day weekend. Other retailers, anxious to increase sales, are liquidating excess inventory as quickly as possible.
Stores might get a boost this week from out-of-school students, teachers and stay-at-home parents who need a break from the insides of their homes.
"I think [Monday] people were getting cabin fever," said Debbie Young, senior marketing director at Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton, which shut down early Sunday and remained closed Monday. "That should help us out."
Springfield Mall, which opened at 10 a.m. yesterday, received numerous calls from people asking if the center was open. Gayle Spurr, director of marketing, says there were usually rejoicing voices on the other end.
"It's someplace to take the kids," she said.
Ms. Spurr says the biggest problem for many residents is getting out of their neighborhoods, since many of the secondary roads had not been plowed by early yesterday.
"It will be a lot better [today]," she said. "I think it will pick up."
Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax had an increase in visitors by yesterday afternoon and General Manager Phil Morosco expects more people will venture out as the roads get cleared.
Thanks to the snow and cabin fever, mall officials expect more shoppers than usual for the middle of a week in February.
Retailers had counted on Presidents Day weekend to bring in sales and help clear out store shelves.
"Stores are disappointed," Ms. Young said. "They usually depend on that weekend."
Some retailers like Sears, Roebuck & Co. extended Presidents Day discounts until yesterday, hoping to make up for lost sales over the holiday.
Other retailers, hoping to get merchandise moving during this traditionally slow period, are finding unique ways to get rid of inventory.
Business is booming at Liquidation.com, based in the District, where some retailers go to sell excess inventory.
Liquidation.com sells the merchandise on an online auction to other wholesale buyers.
"It gives retailers a secondary market to turn inventory to cash," said Bill Angrick, chief executive at Liquidation.com. And that's exactly what they were looking for after a disappointing holiday weekend.
Usually after Presidents Day weekend, Liquidation.com gets about 10 retailers registering daily to sell one or two products they couldn't sell or had too much of. This year, beginning as early as Thursday and Friday when the snow forecast was predicted, the company started registering about 30 retailers a day some selling as many as 10 different products. The merchandise, sold at discounted prices, runs the gamut from winter clothes, games and toys to consumer electronics and garden supplies.
"They need to clear out the backlog and focus on the new lines for the spring," Mr. Angrick said. "From a financial perspective, this gives them working capital for their excess inventory."
Usually, the turnaround time for an auction on Liquidation.com is about 10 to 14 days from the day the retailer registers to the day they get paid for the sale, he said.


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