Snow no deterrent for some shoppers

Posted December 26, 2010 7:50 a.m. EST
Updated December 26, 2010 10:59 p.m. EST

— The threat of icy roads did not keep shoppers from seeking after-Christmas deals Sunday in Durham. As state and local public works crews worked to clear 6 inches and more from area roadways, bargain hunters braved the elements. 

"Usually every year we come out here and enjoy the sales, because we usually get a lot of money for Christmas," B.J. Evans said. "Getting out of our subdivision was kind of nasty, but the highway was clear."

Irene Rodda, visiting from Boston, said her hometown was looking for 18 inches of snow in coming days. Blizzard warnings stretched from New Jersey to Maine. 

"The forecast will tend to keep (shoppers) at home. It's not the best day for shopping," said Scott A. Bernhardt, chief operating officer at weather research firm Planalytics.

The storm had malls from the Carolinas through New Jersey closing early.

Rodda said just watching southern drivers negotiate the slippery roads had her worried.

"it's funny, but also when you see people who don't know how to drive in this weather, it is a little scary," she said.

The timing could have been worse for retailers. Last year, a snowstorm hit the East Coast the Saturday before Christmas, costing them about $2 billion lost sales.

So far, 2010 has been the best holiday season for retailers since 2007, which was a record year. The week ending Jan. 1 makes up less than 10 percent of the Nov 1-Dec. 31 season but accounts for more than 15 percent of holiday spending, research firm ShopperTrak says. Analyst say holiday season spending is on track to rise 3 to 4 percent, the best percentage increase since 2006.

The snow will send some shoppers online, where sales have been strong compared with last year. Online spending rose more than 16 percent the week ending Christmas Day, IBM Coremetrics said. The average order rose 13 percent to $192.52.

In Durham, the shoppers were determined to spend.

"We got lots of gift certificates for Christmas so we just wanted to come out and do some sisterly shopping," said Marie Fowler, who was at The Streets at Southpoint with her sister, Vicky. 

For others, a trip to the mall was a welcome break from a house-bound holiday.

"My mom tried to convince me to stay in the house and I was like, 'No, because if I don't take her shopping, she is going to get on my nerves,'" said Courtney Lashley.