WASHINGTON – Maryland retailers said Thursday’s snowfall may have kept shoppers away for a day, but they are hoping it will also get people into the mood for some serious holiday shopping this weekend.
“In years where there is early post-Thanksgiving snow in places that don’t normally get it, it tends to get people in the holiday mood,” said Rob Markey, vice-president of Bain and Co., a business-consulting firm.
Retailers — noting that temperatures in the 70s at this time last year were hardly conducive to the holiday spirit — are calling this week’s snow a “blessing.”
“I think far more good will come out of yesterday’s storm than bad,” said Steven Adler, managing partner at the Historic Savage Mill mall. “I think this weekend will be a very busy weekend.”
December storms are rare in Maryland. Thursday’s storm, which brought 9 inches of snow to some parts of the state, was the first December storm of its kind in 13 years, said Richard Hitchens, a meteorologist for the Baltimore- Washington forecast office of the National Weather Service.
Markey said it is important to get shoppers out early, especially this year when there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The National Retail Federation had a fairly dismal forecast for 2002 holiday sales, which it expects will be up only 4 percent over last year.
But Tom Saquella, president of the Maryland Retail Association, said this season is already off to a better-than-expected start. ShopperTrak, a Chicago market-tracking firm, said sales on the day after Thanksgiving rose 12.4 percent this year, to $7.4 billion. Thursday’s snowfall could help continue the trend that began last week, Saquella said.
“Retailers like to see cold weather so people think about the holidays,” he said. “I think it is going to be a good weekend. We’re hoping that the good start holds up through the season”
Karen Geary, vice president and general manager of the Mall of Columbia, said the benefits of the snow could already be seen Friday. Because of some schools and businesses were closed for the day, the mall was packed like a “very, very busy holiday Saturday,” she said.
“We got just the right amount of snow,” she said. “It’s not too much that it prohibits people from leaving their homes and it has the tendency to bring in shoppers because it is the essence of the season.”
Adler thinks the wintry weather is a big advantage over last year, when temperatures were over 70 three times in December.
“It’s tough to compete with nice weather,” Adler said. “If tomorrow was 60 and sunny, people would play golf or be outside. Snow and cold weather limit the choices people have.”
Stores are not the only ones grateful for the snow: Ed Marson, owner of Ed Plant’s World in Brandywine, thinks he will sell more Christmas trees this weekend because of the snow blanketing his community. He said he sold about 100 trees this week and expects to sell a couple hundred more this weekend.
“The snow is resting on the boughs of all the trees,” Marson said. “It really looks like Christmas. It’s beautiful . . . not a slushy mess.”