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Retailers Extend Hours, Ship Dates Following Snowstorm

12/21/2009 02:33:08 PM Eastern
New York - Retailers are extending store hours and cutoff dates for online orders in the wake of the powerful snowstorm that shut down much of the East Coast over the weekend.

The timing couldn't have been more inopportune. The Nor'easter arrived on the last Saturday before Christmas, or so-called "Super Saturday," which is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, having accounted for as much as $15 billion in sales in past years.

According to some estimates, the snow blanketed a region that accounts for about one-quarter of the national marketplace. For Best Buy, the storm was "particularly unfortunate," said Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter. Best Buy is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Circuit City's market share, and that chain's "strongest region was the Mid-Atlantic area and the storm hit that part of the country the hardest," he wrote in a research note.

Snowbound shoppers likely turned to the Internet to place last-minute orders. According to one early report by StreetInsider.com, traffic for retail Web sites topped 2.9 million visitors on Saturday night, compared with the 1.9 million on the same night in 2008, data from the Akamai Retail Net Usage Index showed.

To accommodate the expected influx, e-tailers extended their order deadlines for Dec. 24th deliveries, including Amazon.com, which stretched its standard shipping cut-off one day to today.

Some brick-and-mortar retailers similarly extended store hours to make up for lost sales. Target said today that the majority of its stores in markets affected by the storm along the East Coast - including all stores in Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and many stores in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts - will operate extended holiday hours beginning today through Wednesday, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m. and closing at midnight.

"We understand that the shopping plans for many of our guests in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast during this weekend before Christmas were affected by the severe storm," said Troy Risch, the chain's executive VP for stores. "To give these guests more opportunity to make all their holiday purchases, the majority of our stores in hard hit areas will open one hour earlier than originally planned and remain open until midnight."

As previously announced, all Target stores nationwide will also be open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the day after Christmas "for post-holiday bargain hunters," the company said.
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