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Roads clear

shoppers out

December 20, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- After a snowed-in Saturday, many local residents were back on the roads and off to local shopping centers Sunday in an attempt to make up for lost shopping time on the last weekend before Christmas.

Between mountains of plowed snow, the parking lots at Valley Mall and the Centre at Hagerstown were filled with cars by Sunday afternoon, a sharp contrast from Saturday, when most stores closed early or did not open at all.

Retailers said they were relieved that the weekend would not be a total loss, but there was no doubt that the timing of Saturday's storm was bad news for Christmas sales goals.

"The Saturday before Christmas is always one of the biggest shopping days," said Ralph Cecil, general manager at Borders in the Centre at Hagerstown.

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"Super Saturday" usually accounts for $15 billion worth of sales nationwide, according to Scott Bernhardt of weather research firm Planalytics. Stores certainly did not hit that number this year, though Bernhardt said he wasn't sure by how much they missed.

The Hagerstown Borders was open Saturday morning, but closed at 11:30 a.m. as roads became increasingly treacherous, Cecil said.

Cecil said he hoped the store's extended hours from now through Christmas Eve would help make up for the business lost by closing early Saturday. Borders will be open until midnight, he said. In addition, the store will consider whether to open an hour early, at 8 a.m., Cecil said.

Amy Huffman, owner of Home and School Connection, which has an educational toy store in Valley Mall during the holiday season, said closing the store at 3 p.m. on the biggest shopping day of the year was "painful."

"I trust the Lord will provide and it will work out," Huffman said.

Sunday started out slow at the store, but things began to pick up in the afternoon, she said.

Many of the shoppers out on Sunday said they had only a few items left to buy and weren't worried when the snowstorm moved in.

"I was almost finished, and I still have three days left," said Jennifer McCullough, 46, of Hagerstown, as she walked out of Dick's Sporting Goods Sunday afternoon.

Many said they wouldn't have minded finishing up their Christmas shopping later in the week, but saw no reason to wait.

"The roads are in great shape," said Eunice Plank, 57, of Hagerstown. "You just have to be careful."

Others said they had counted on using the weekend for the bulk of their Christmas shopping and were worried when they heard about the snow.

"I'm in nursing school and I didn't have finals 'til Thursday, so I haven't been able to do any shopping up until now," said Darcy Munro, 41, of Williamsport. "(The snow) was definitely a blow to my plans."

Munro, who lives near Valley Mall, said she went to the mall Saturday morning to start her shopping despite the snow.

"I was just worrying about it too much," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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