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EASTERN U.S. Storm causes loss of sale day for stores



Published: Thu, February 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Many stores closed on the biggest sales day of the month.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Though some people seemed to enjoy the winter storm that dropped 2 feet of snow in many parts of the East, retailers who spent heavily advertising Presidents Day sales weren't smiling.

"In many areas of the country, stores have just completely shut down," said Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman for National Retail Federation. "Not only do they lose in sales, but they also lose in the advertising money they've spent."

Many retailers from Virginia to Massachusetts closed stores Monday, as snow-covered roads made it difficult for employees to get to work and state officials urged people to stay home.

Boscov's, the Reading-based department store chain, had run holiday advertisements in many newspapers in its mid-Atlantic base. Chairman Albert Boscov said he may run them again -- and hold the sale Saturday, Washington's actual birthday.

In any event, he said, the lost day shouldn't cripple retailers, many of whom are struggling in the weak economy.

"Washington's Birthday of course is the biggest day in February, but still, in comparison to Christmas, it's not a big deal," Boscov said.

Many department store items are deeply discounted in February, whereas a big snow before Christmas means the loss of a day selling profitable, full-price merchandise, he said.

Silver lining

Stores generally hope to clear out winter inventory with the sales, to make room for spring items. But storms aren't entirely bad news, as they inspire people to stock up on winter items.

May Department Stores closed more than 100 stores in its Lord & amp; Taylor, Hecht's, Strawbridge's and Filene's divisions Monday, including the Lord & amp; Taylor in Manhattan, said spokeswoman Sharon Bateman.

Each group will decide whether to replace or extend the holiday sale, she said.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, closed at least some stores in nine Eastern states.

The lost revenue can be made up, as long as the store is stocked -- especially with grocery items -- when people return, said Tom Williams, a spokesman in Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

David Wallace, a Manhattan toy store owner, caught a movie during an unplanned layover Monday in Philadelphia.

"We don't even know if our store's open," Wallace said.




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