Snowstorm may bury holiday shopping
Retailers say they wouldn’t be able to recoup losses
NEW YORK - Lots of snow may have storybook holiday charm, but storm predictions in the Northeast are not raising the spirits of retailers counting on shoppers to give them a brisk finish to the season.
A wet storm that arrived in the Southeast late Thursday could bring snow to much of the Eastern Seaboard beginning today. Washington, D.C., could get 10 to 16 inches of snow, and the New York region five to 10 inches, the National Weather Service warned. Forecasters expect six to eight inches of snow in Boston and as much as 20 inches on some areas of Cape Cod.
For retailers already struggling to draw restrained holiday shoppers, stormy weather on the last Saturday before Christmas, sometimes the busiest shopping day of the year, could mean the loss of sales that aren’t replaced, experts said.
“When you lose a day of sales between now and Dec. 25, you don’t make it up,’’ said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe. “If you’re closed for business on Saturday, you’re not going to do twice the business on Sunday.’’
Even if major storms don’t materialize, forecasts could keep shoppers home.
“When the radio says, ‘Stay tuned, don’t leave your house, this is the storm of ’09,’ ’’ that’s bad for business, he said.
Chain stores with a heavy concentration in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including Bon-Ton stores, DSW Shoe Warehouse, and Kohl’s Inc., will be affected the most, he said. Representatives of those retailers did not immediately return calls for comment. Such stores, including TJX Cos., are vulnerable because people avoid outlets exposed to the weather.
“If consumers venture out in the storm, they will likely travel to malls, where they can shop indoors and have numerous retail options,’’ Jaffe wrote to investors.
Companies with popular websites, such as Urban Outfitters Inc. and J.Crew Group Inc., could counter sales declines at their stores with higher online revenue.
Smaller, independent stores are often the most vulnerable to bad weather.
“It’s the busiest day of the year. If it happens, it will cost me thousands of dollars,’’ said Geoff Stern, owner of The Toy Professor in Summit, N.J.
Todd Dickinson, owner of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pa., said “if it’s bad weather, it’s tough to think about the day that could have been.’’
Material from Bloomberg News was used in this report.