Sales hot at cool indoor malls

Updated: Jul 31 2006, 05:31am hrs
Triple-digit temperatures are pushing Los Angeles grid to the brink and sending electric bills soaring, but retailers arent complaining. Malls are packed with people hoping for a dose of free air-conditioning, and many are leaving some of their money behind during what is normally retails snoozy summer season.

Malls all over the country are doing fairly well, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. It may not be big-ticket items but a lot of smaller impulse things.

Whether sales gains will be enough to cover higher electric tabs remains to be seen. Utility bills could be an unexpected hit a little bit down the road, Kyser said.

At Northridge Fashion Center, sales of sunglasses at Farrahs Sunwear kiosk were booming, said Afsaneh Malekimojarab. There is a lot more business here because of the weather, Malekimojarab said as customers tested the shades, one pair for $12, two for $20. Saturday we made twice as much as we did the weekend before.

Newly stocked fall clothes werent moving as quickly at the Gap, but flip-flops and skirts were, said assistant manager Mateo McDaniels. Other retailers said folks were just browsing and sucking down chilled beverages at the food court. Business is not the reason people are coming to the mall, said Nash Freeman at his cell phone accessory kiosk. Its hot outside, cool in here. Thats the only reason I see.

Jeannine Andrade had that very idea when she claimed a choice seat and pulled out crossword puzzles. The 70-year-old Northridge resident has a little air-conditioning at home but not enough to keep her cool. Its a good spot, Andrade said of the mall, pencil and puzzle book in hand. Nice comfy chairs.

NY TIMES / Julia Scott