The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

December 21, 2012

Stores brace for snow during final shopping days

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, slashed its retail sales forecast for the season on Wednesday to an estimated 2.5 percent increase to $257.7 billion. The company had previously predicted a rise of 3.3 percent for the season.

"This comes at a crucial weekend," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, a research firm. "This is the end game. These days are huge as sales have been soft in November and December. They need a strong finish to carry through."

Most major stores and malls said that local managers are keeping an eye on the weather. Kohl's closed its Beaver Dam, Wis. store late Thursday. And Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said that 15 of its nearly 4,000 stores were closed for a few hours Thursday because of the storm. But all but three stores in Kansas, Missouri and Iowa have reopened.

"There's been no major impact at this point," Gee said, noting that the affected stores have seen a spike in sales of snacks as shoppers prepared to stay home.

Target, which is watching 46 stores across Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, said it has "prepositioned" inventory such as shovels and winter clothing to areas that are expected to get significant snow. The discounter said in a statement on Thursday that all of its stores are open and that the "goal is to remain open for impacted communities to have access to winter storm essentials."

Scott Bernhardt, president of Planalytics, which tracks the effect of weather on retailers, said he does not expect the storm to meaningfully affect retail sales because it's hitting before the weekend begins. He also said the location of the storm will work to stores' advantage.

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