Storms Cause Challenges for Retail

Winter storms hammering the East Coast over the weekend created difficulties for retailers seeking to lure in shoppers for post-holiday deals, but the weather did prompt sales for seasonal shoe styles.

Shops in the tri-state region were forced to make adjustments after nearly two feet of snow blanketed the area. Retailers told Footwear News they were altering store hours and working with leaner staffs.

“About half of the retailers around me are closed and a lot of my sales associates couldn’t make it in because the streets aren’t drivable,” said Sam Cohen, owner of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Avenue J Shoes. He added that the store was getting most of its Monday business from people walking past. Cohen said he was unsure how sales were going to pan out for the rest of the day and that he planned to close up early.

But not all retailers were disheartened by winter snowstorm. Tip Top Shoes owner Danny Wasserman said he was optimistic about what the inclement conditions could mean for traffic in his New York store. “Retailers around this time of year are like farmers,” he said. “We wait for this type of weather to draw in customers. Sales will be fine.”

In Buffalo, N.Y., Shoefly owner Sue Marfino said that snow is expected at this time of year and hasn’t posed any significant problems for her shop. “We’re not experiencing any drawbacks because of the snow. We’re used to these conditions,” she said, noting that storms this season have been a boon to business as shoppers seek out waterproof styles. “The holiday season has definitely been better than last year.”

To further boost sales after Christmas, Marfino — who noted that sales figures are close to pre-recession levels — marked down fall product by 20 percent,  excluding waterproof boots. She said another price break is also planned at the end of January.

Outside the New York region, retailers were also taking advantage of the inclement weather to drive winter and rainboot styles. At Stella in Burlington, Vt., shoppers turned to winter boots styles from Timberland and Sorrell as they prepared for snow that was expected to hit the region late Monday.

“Boots were the hottest item in the store,” said Stella manager Liz Abrams, adding that the blizzard that hit the tri-state area missed Vermont. “[The day after Christmas] was very busy — busier than expected.”

Abrams said the influx of shoppers could be a result of tourists stranded in the region, so the new few days could be slower as visitors begin to make their way home.

Despite rain, ice and power outages in the Washington, D.C., area,  Elizabeth Todd, owner of the Shoe Hive in Alexandria, Va., said she’s seen little negative impact on traffic and sales in the days after Christmas.

“Most employees, including myself, can walk to the store, which makes things easier,” she said of the store’s location in the heart of Alexandria. “We’re always open.”

Though shoppers in the area tend to favor larger malls for post-Christmas sales, Todd said she was pleased with the turnout on Sunday. Boots, particularly by Hunter, were top sellers. “We had more traffic than I anticipated,” she said. And a rush of business could come when the store’s winter sale begins Friday.

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