Did the Blizzard Bury Retailers' Holiday Sales?

Business experts frantically debate the economic impact of the weekend snowstorm

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The stupendous snowstorm that fell on the Northeast this weekend just happened to coincide with one of the biggest shopping days of the year-- the "Super Saturday" immediately before Christmas. With many shoppers marooned at home before the shopping crush at the mall, how will the storm affect the season's overall retail numbers? The big question is whether shoppers delay hitting the stores for a few days, or give their dollars to online retailers instead. Yet some analysts think that no matter which way shoppers go, the weekend will result in a loss. Here's their take on the economic effect of the winter weather:

  • Online Make-or-Break Daily Finance's Douglas McIntyre thinks that "only four days of shopping until Christmas Eve ... may not be enough time to make up" for two days of snow. Thus, "e-commerce may end up being the critical factor for whether overall retail sales are up or down for the 2009 holidays."
  • Don't Hold Your Breath for Internet Upswing The Wall Street Journal, using data from Planalytics, suggests that "the peak period for the Web has passed." Also, while some shoppers might push their errands back to Sunday, "not all [business] will be made up."
  • Why the Snowstorm Will Hurt In an interview with NPR, Planalytics CEO Scott Bernhardt says that while "people will still shop," it's likely that they will now "shop exactly what's on their list and ... go home because they're running out of time." That means "you lose a lot of ... self gifting, ... browsing, true shopping that retailers rely on to up their numbers." Furthermore, while the storm only hit the East Coast, East Coast shoppers have "significant purchasing power," making the snowstorm a "significant national event," economically speaking.
  • Could Snowstorm Be Good? "Every dime shoppers do not spend," Mike Shedlock points out, "is economically a good thing as people need to stop spending money they do not have on things they do not need." So is the snowstorm good news? Not quite: "assuming spending is indeed reduced, it would have been far better if the inducement was something other than an economically wasteful blizzard."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.