comscore Ringing registers lift merchants after outages | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Ringing registers lift merchants after outages

    Last-minute Christmas shoppers converged on Ala Moana Center yesterday, but some merchants feel the increase in traffic might not be enough to cover losses incurred during this week's power failures.
    Shoppers took advantage of sales yesterday at Ala Moana Center.

Last-minute shoppers flooded Ala Moana Center yesterday, though the increased traffic might not have been enough to cover losses incurred during four power failures this week caused by rain.

Reyn’s lost about two-thirds of its sales on Monday when the power abruptly shut down and more business on Tuesday when registers were running in the semidark with makeshift fluorescent lights, according to manager Suzie Metivier.

"We were on our way to having a good day on Monday, then I lost two-thirds of it – that’s significant," she said. "You cannot make up what you’ve lost already."

A makeshift fluorescent light stand still sits in the middle of the store just in case the power goes out again.

Hawaiian Electric Co. said that shouldn’t be necessary. HECO yesterday said it has replaced a transformer that was damaged during Sunday’s storm. The transformer will be tested today and all systems should be back to normal in time for after Christmas shopping tomorrow, said Darren Pai, HECO spokesman.

Dozens of stores at Hawaii’s largest shopping center were in the dark off and on since Sunday following the heavy rain that triggered an electrical fire and destroyed the transformer.

"We’re keeping our fingers crossed," Metivier said. "I’m one of so many stores actually grateful because we could’ve been Macy’s."

Major tenants Macy’s and Sears did not provide comment on lost sales or whether they will file claims with HECO.

Cinnamon Girl owner Reid Fujita said that while overall traffic was affected when outages "kept happening over and over again," the difference in sales over the previous year was insignificant.

"That’s hard to tell. Maybe we would’ve been way more up, but who knows," he said.

On the other hand, the outages might have improved business at T&C Surf Designs, one of the dozens of stores unaffected by the power troubles. T&C experienced a boost in traffic each time the power went out at neighboring businesses, said Rose Schoening, a T&C manager.

Ala Moana representatives have declined to comment on lost sales or the possibility of retailers filing claims with HECO.

Mililani resident Shaunna Dilwith’s family drove to Ala Moana Monday to purchase Oakley glasses for her 17-year-old son, Shane, but were disappointed to find the store darkened. The family attempted to drive back to Ala Moana Thursday but went back home due to heavy traffic.

"We only travel down there once a year," said Dilwith, adding that Shane will get his gift after Christmas this year. "He was kind of upset, kind of sad, because my little ones – his brother and sister – kept saying, you won’t have nothing to open (on Christmas)."

Meanwhile, sales were up "well over the last two years" at Pearlridge, according to general manager Fred Paine, who estimates retailers on average are seeing a 10 percent increase over last year.

"It’s a good indicator that the economy’s rebounding, at least a little bit," he said. "My merchants are saying they’re not buying big-ticket items, but they’re buying."

"We’ve had much more traffic this season, people are out there again, it’s very encouraging," said Alex Kirley, marketing manager for Windward Mall. "They’re still checking prices, but they’re shopping and they’re opening their wallets again."


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