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Sandy dampens mood for many Black Friday shoppers

By Phil Wahba and Beth Pinsker Gladstone

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y./BROOKLYN, New York (Reuters) - Malls across the United States teemed with shoppers looking for Black Friday bargains, but many in the New York area sat out the madness, too busy coping with the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy.

The Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York, just a few miles from New York's JFK airport, is in a part of Long Island that was particularly devastated by the October 29 storm, which destroyed or severely damaged homes in many low-lying areas.

While still busy, shoppers and store workers alike said it was far from being the usual mob of years past.

"All the money people are spending on eating or on gas because they're displaced from their homes is money they won't spend on gifts," said Liliana Bignardelli, a 30 year-old perfume saleswoman working out of the Macy's at the mall.

She herself has been displaced since Sandy flooded the first floor of her home in Freeport, on Long Island, in one of the worst hit areas. She won't be able to go home until sometime in December. A colleague of hers said he had never seen a Black Friday this quiet.

A few doors down, at a Kohl's Corp store, Ed Gunn of West Hempstead, New York, said that last Black Friday, it took him forever to find a parking spot. This year, it was easy.

And he put the blame squarely on Sandy. His sister, who lives in Oceanside, also on Long Island, lost her home.

"They're not worrying about going shopping. They're trying to get their lives back together," he said.

A number of national retailers in recent weeks have said that Sandy has affected business. Expected economic losses from Sandy have been estimated at well north of $50 billion.

"It's clearly had an impact," Macy's Chief Executive Terry Lundgren told Reuters.

Other retailers reporting an impact from Sandy range from jeweler Zale Corp to upscale department store operator Saks Inc .

Despite the circumstances, some shoppers hurt by the storm turned out in search of deals given their stretched finances.

At the Kings Plaza Mall, near the parts of Brooklyn that were flooded the most dramatically, foot traffic was lighter at the mall on Black Friday than last year, although store workers said there had been crowds at Best Buy earlier looking for deals on televisions.

At Macy's, a mall worker named Raffie, was buying shoes for her son to attend a Sweet 16 party before she started her shift at a different store.

"We lost everything at our home in Staten Island," she said.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in Valley Stream, N.Y., and Beth Pinsker Gladstone in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Editing by Ben Berkowitz and Tim Dobbyn)

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