NEW YORK — Midwesterners aren't the only ones who could get slammed by the storm that's expected to bring heavy snow, winds and rain to the middle of the country over the next couple of days. Stores could get hit, too.
With sales during the holiday shopping season disappointing so far, the nation's retailers are depending even more on these final days leading up to Christmas for a boost in business. Retailers are hoping the storm won't change shoppers' plans.
Jon Adam, 22, said he's finished most of his holiday shopping. But Adam, who lives in of Grand Rapids, Mich., was planning to go out this weekend to buy $80 perfume at a specialty store 35 miles away for his girlfriend. The looming snowstorm, however, is making him rethink that. "I don't know if things are going to freeze over," he said. "We're all used to snow. But we haven't had that big snow (storm) this year. So everyone is on edge."
The first big snowstorm of the season, which began in the Midwest on Thursday, is just the latest challenge facing stores during this holiday shopping season. The period, which runs roughly from November through December, can account for 40 percent of a store's annual revenue. And the Midwest accounts for about 18 percent of the nation's retail sales, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks spending.
So far this season, sales have been lackluster as shoppers have held back their spending because of worries about the weak U.S. job market and the possibility that a stalemate between Congress and the White House over the U.S. budget could trigger tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" next year, cutting into their incomes.
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.