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Long IslandNassau

LI retailers try to recoup holiday sales after storm

Shoppers

Shoppers Photo Credit: Getty Images File

Retailers Monday began to recoup in earnest from the weekend's blizzard as shoppers returned to malls and downtowns for last-minute gifts.

Long Island shoppers, liberated from the snow, hit the malls in force, but the blizzard wasn't the only reason for their delayed Christmas shopping. Traditional holiday procrastination, money and, according to one survey, the lack of sales as steep as last year's, were factors why consumers put off completing their shopping until this week.

"My original plan was to start on Saturday, but I didn't want to be in the snow," said Elaine Johnson, 47, who started her shopping Monday at the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City. "But this year I also started later because of financial reasons. I have to make sure the important bills get paid - my mortgage, electric bill, car payment, my son's tuition."

Some shoppers were also waiting for the last weekend-before-Christmas sales, and many were disappointed, according to a survey by America's Research Group, a market research firm based in Charleston, S.C. More than 50 percent of shoppers who haven't finished their Christmas shopping blame that in part on the lack of deep discounts similar to last year's.

"The problem this weekend was probably as much the discounts as the weather," said Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of the research firm. "They [consumers] didn't see the 60 and 70 percent off this year that they expected based on last year, when retailers told them that was the sales level and now they are taking that away from them."

It's still unclear how much the weekend storm affected retailers' expected revenue, but they have this week to make up for any lost sales. Traffic entering Roosevelt Field Monday afternoon was backed up at least half a mile and snaked through a clogged parking lot. Despite the snowstorm, the mall was busy with shoppers until the evening Saturday and picked up again Sunday afternoon, said Kathleen Herrmann, area director of marketing for the mall.

"Nothing stops us," Herrmann said. "We're New Yorkers, Long Islanders, and if we've got something to do, we're going to do it."

At Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station, even though the parking lot was full Monday, some merchants like Sam Tripathi, who operates the Silver Line jewelry kiosk, complained that business was slow. He usually counts on shoppers growing frustrated with long lines at Macy's and coming to buy gifts at his kiosk. "Now there are no lines at Macy's and no people over here," he said.

The Tanger Outlet in Riverhead closed on Sunday and delayed its opening by an hour Monday. Traffic, however, was running ahead of last year and shoppers came out to the center during the week and Friday to beat the storm, said general manager Janine Nebons.

"For large volume stores I don't think you ever make it up, but medium and smaller size stores, absolutely they can do it," she said. ". . . We have a broad enough merchant mix here so the shocks will be easily absorbed."

Marilyn Schulman, who owns Bay Shore's Willy Nilly Trading Company, said Sunday was slow but she was flooded with customers Saturday and again Monday. At this point, her December revenue is 27 percent higher than last year's, she said.

"We are going to take it in stride," Schulman said. "Whatever was lost, it was such a great, great month it's not going to be a big factor."

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