Shoppers Stalled By White Christmas

The Saturday before Christmas is usually one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But this time around, shopping came to a halt after a huge snow storm walloped much of the Northeast.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

The Saturday before Christmas, known as Super Saturday, is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But the huge snowstorm that walloped much of the East Coast this weekend made a mess of things for retailers and shoppers alike.

Here's NPR's Allison Keyes.

ALLISON KEYES: The Fashion Center at Pentagon City is usually packed to the rafters at this time of year. Yesterday...

(Soundbite of silence)

KEYES: But the wicked weather made a clear field for shoppers like Pamela Savoy(ph).

Ms. PAMELA SAVOY: The stores weren't very crowded. The metro wasn't crowded at all.

KEYES: Wearing bright red rubber boots against the snow, with her smiling husband in tow, Savoy was on the hunt for bargains.

Ms. SAVOY: That's why we're here; seems like the merchants are trying to sell. So, as usual, putting off shopping to the last minute has actually worked out, even though you are in a rush. We're from Ohio and so this is regular weather for us. It's great.

KEYES: Despite the blowing snow and stranded cars outside, folks like Noreen Palmer(ph) and her friends from Columbus, Ohio, found the weather exhilarating and just perfect for shopping.

Ms. NOREEN PALMER: I got a red baron hat for my son, so he's going to love that.

KEYES: But right in the middle of the holiday cheer came the Grinchy news that the snow was all too much for the area's public transportation.

Unidentified Man: The metro will be closing today at one o'clock.

KEYES: Reagan National Airport shut down completely yesterday in Washington, D.C., while hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed in many places, including Philadelphia and New York. Virginia state police reported hundreds of crashes and disabled vehicles since Friday. And Amtrak trains to the northeast were delayed by the weather as well. Even the Smithsonian Museums are closed. Back at the Virginia mall, stores like cosmetics retailer Sephora took the hit, since many of its employees took buses or trains to get to work.

Unidentified Woman: We're closed. Sorry.

KEYES: That was a little sad for Randy Mack(ph) of Virginia who was looking for a particular shade of fancy lipstick.

Ms. RANDY MACK: It's nice 'cause there's nobody here, but apparently half the stores aren't open anyway, and they're all going to be closing now 'cause of the metro. So it's a little frustrating.

KEYES: The mall shutdown for the day at 4 p.m., not good news for nervous retailers. But Pam Brown of Virginia Beach put the whole day in perspective.

Ms. PAM BROWN: I mean, it's Christmas and what do you expect on Christmas time?

Unidentified Child: Snow.

Ms. BROWN: A white Christmas.

KEYES: Plus, not everyone was stranded by public transportation. Noreen Palmer and the Ohio group knew just what to do.

Ms. PALMER: We hired a limo and we gave him a nice tip so he's coming back to get us.

KEYES: Sadly, they did not offer NPR a ride.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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