Rain Dampens Holiday Outings, Visits to Mall

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Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The dreary weather forced many Washingtonians to cancel their plans for a Memorial Day barbecue or beach visit, but they didn't necessarily hit the malls to lift their spirits.

Traffic was light at local shopping centers yesterday. Several retailers had advertised sales on big-ticket items, such as furniture and mattresses, but the busiest merchants seemed to be salons, restaurants and souvenir shops.

"If the weather was better, we would be by the pool right now," Lori Ettinger said as she, her husband, their 8-month-old daughter and a friend snacked on ice cream at Pentagon Row, a town square-style shopping center in Arlington.

While many stores advertise Memorial Day sales, retailers do not count heavily on the holiday. It does not rank as one of the top shopping days of the year, according to the National Retail Federation trade group.

According to a survey the federation released last week, 16.9 percent of consumers said they planned to visit the stores over the holiday weekend to take advantage of sales and promotions, but 45 percent were undecided.

The survey results suggested department stores and discount marts would see the biggest gains during the weekend. This was the first year the federation conducted a survey on Memorial Day spending, so previous data were unavailable.

The Ettingers bought some clothes in McLean during the weekend, but they didn't take advantage of any of the big sales. The overcast sky was beginning to break yesterday as they sat down on a patio to eat their ice cream, but Mrs. Ettinger said it was probably too late to save the holiday.

Retailers were probably feeling the same way. A piece of notebook paper scribbled with the words "Back in five minutes" hung in the window of a Pentagon Row jewelry store.

A few doors down, the Mattress Warehouse was a little busier. …