Winter Storm Threatens To Bury "Super Saturday"

Winter Storm Whacks Washington DC

Are you going to be shopping today?

If you live anywhere on the East Coast, the answer is probably not. It’s likely too late for most online shopping to reach you by Christmas on Thursday. And there’s that monster blizzard that is working its way up the East Coast.

Retail sales will certainly suffer this weekend. Usually today is one of the largest shopping days before Christmas, which is why it is sometimes called “Super Saturday.” A storm like this one, hitting major population centres all over the East Coast, will have a major impact on shopping behaviour.

Although the East Coast is a geographically narrow stretch of the United States, it is filled with shopping malls and big box retailers. Indeed, stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, and Toys R Us typically do as many as 60% of their sales on Super Saturday today. So even though last year’s pre-Christmas storms covered a bigger portion of the country, this year’s storm could have an outsized impact on overall sales.

“When you lose a day of sales between now and Dec. 25, you don’t make it up,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe told the Associated Press. “If you’re closed for business on Saturday, you’re not going to do twice the business on Sunday.”

Even if major storms don’t materialise, forecasts could keep shoppers home. “When the radio says, ‘Stay tuned, don’t leave your house, this is the storm of ’09,'” that’s bad for business, he said.

Strapped local budgets may also make things worse. Many localities will have fewer plows on the road this year, and fewer police directing traffic.

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