Shopping season is slow on Guam in aftermath of typhoon
December 19, 2002
GUAM — Shops bustled with customers Monday, even while homes remained without power and running water eight days after Super Typhoon Pongsona battered the small Pacific island.
Inside the Micronesia Mall, Christmas lights blinked to “Feliz Navidad” and Santa Claus chatted up children. But the holiday spirit was elusive.
“This isn’t going to be a very merry Christmas,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dave Waddell, 27, while shopping with his 2-year-old son, David, in K-B toys.
“There’s no power, no water, just a lot of destruction,” he said.
More shops and restaurants opened Monday on Guam, most powered by generators.
Reminders of the typhoon ate at the attempt at normalcy: The mall smelled like mildew, and lines at fast-food restaurants were almost out the door.
Guam resident Karin Schulz, 34, who walked the mall with her husband Monday, shook her head when asked if shopping put her in the Christmas spirit.
“How can you? You look outside, so many buildings are destroyed,” she said.
At K-B toys, customers were climbing over each other, but it was hardly a Christmas rush.
Juliet Fortunato, 30, a local, told her kids they each could pick out one toy “to cheer them up,” she said, “because there’s no power, no school. It’s hard.”
Merchants, meanwhile, are trying to salvage what’s left of the holiday shopping season but said they know it will be difficult.
“The Christmas shopping season won’t be the same,” said Dale Fishell, district manager for Guam’s Big Kmart.
Shoppers poured into Big Kmart on Monday afternoon, but the aisles stacked neatly with tree decorations and wrapping paper stayed empty. Bath towels on sale for $1.99 drew a mob, however, and generators for $749 sold out.
“Christmas items were being ignored,” said store manager John Naccarato. “They’re buying diapers, candles, fans, batteries and food,” he said.
The store sustained water damage and lost some of its building facade as well as light poles and signs. Fishell said store officials still are calculating losses.
“Business is not what it was, but it’s building,” Fishell said.
Some stores are suffering a double whammy. Many tourists canceled Guam vacations because of the typhoon.
“No tourists are coming in,” said Sue Lee, owner of Ameri Gift, a gift store at the mall. “Even the locals are staying away.”
The store made two sales Monday; on a typical day before Christmas, Lee rings up 500 or 600 purchases, she said.
The Navy Exchange at U.S. Naval Forces Marianas opened Saturday. Store officials there were more optimistic.
“We’re doing our typical business,” said Bel Bautista, NEXII supervisory store clerk.
The typhoon slowed down Christmas tree sales, Bautista said, even though prices were slashed from $55 to $9.
Lt. Daniel Gorman, a sailor aboard the submarine USS City of Corpus Christi, bought a tree for his fianceé, who is flying in from Australia.
“We’re just going to spend Christmas together here,” he said outside the exchange, his dripping tree in hand. “It’s not too bad, as long as the lights shine, but if they don’t, oh well.”