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Businesses still assessing damage from snow storm

Kitsap retailers were dealt a cruel hand when unusually harsh weather hit during what should have been their busiest time of year. Elbow room was the only thing in short supply at the Kitsap Mall as shoppers mobbed the post-storm bargains. Bad weather kept some home for a while, but once the snow began to thaw, the money flowed like snow melting downhill.

Christmas Eve saw shoppers elbow-to-elbow in some stores, said Yvonne Tomascak, marketing manager for the mall. Citing confidentiality, she declined to share specific numbers, but anecdotally she shared that the last-minute, pre-Christmas push numbers were higher this year than last.

Several factors figured in to the mall being the center of the perfect shopping storm on Christmas Eve.

“It created a sense of urgency in people that they were running out of time to go out and shop,” Tomascak said. “A lot of people realized the mail wasn’t coming.”

First, shoppers had been holed up in their houses for days on end, as Kitsap was hammered with a snowfall of Alaskan proportions — or so it seemed. In addition, the panicked realization that some items ordered on the Internet wouldn’t make it in time for Christmas egged shoppers to grab their wallets and go, she said.

“One of the busiest days was Christmas Eve,” she said. “That was one of the first days that week people were getting out of their houses.”

Adding to the allure of the food court scent and the warmth of indoor shopping, the mall also had some of the clearest parking lots in the county as a contractor was hired to clear the lots to make way for shopper parking, she said.

The day-after-Christmas shoppers, armed with gift cards and seeking bargains, crammed into the mall once again.

“The retailers all had great deals and deep discounts,” she said.

On the day after Christmas, Kitsapers were looking to buy, while not so much looking to return unwanted gifts.

“The day after Christmas was like Black Friday,” Tomascak said, referring to the day after Thanksgiving in which shoppers turn out shortly after the stroke of midnight to bargain hunt.

While the Kitsap Mall reaped the benefits of the snow’s departure, county tourism officials haven’t had the chance yet to check in with local retailers to assess if the storm was a boom or burn for local businesses.

They, too, are just getting back into the office and the swing of things as Kitsap thaws.

Grant Griffin, executive director of the Kitsap Peninsula Vistor and Convention Bureau, said he, too, was trapped at home.

“I had a terrible time trying to get out of my place,” Griffin said. He was able to make it out of his driveway after securing snow chains for his vehicle.

He, like the rest of the worker bees in the county, made it back into the office on Monday morning and is still trying to make sense of Snowpocalypse ‘08.

“Literally, for a week just prior to Christmas, I’d been in the office for three days. I didn’t have one phone call, no messages,” he said.

Silvia Klatman, executive director of the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce, said work was a non-factor for her as well.

“Downtown looked like most, if not all, the businesses were shut down,” she said. “One staff member (at the Bremerton Chamber) made it in for a couple of hours. We didn’t have anything critical going on.”

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