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CONSUMERS STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES AFTER ATTACK

As the nation came under attack from terrorists last week, many Americans rushed to the nearest store to stock up on supplies.

They grabbed gasoline containers, televisions, TV antennas, ammunition, guns and anything red, white and blue, according to Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. But the buying frenzy lasted for just a few hours. By Tuesday night, the stores were quiet.

"We call it the CNN effect," said Tom Williams, a Wal-Mart spokesman. "By evening, many people were going home to be with their family and watch TV."

Sales of gasoline containers jumped 900 percent Tuesday at Wal-Mart's 2,600 stores nationwide. Stores saw a 400 percent increase in television antenna sales and sold double their normal number of TVs.

"I think people were concerned about staying in touch," Williams said. "Communication was just crucial."

Locally, Adelphia cable saw the number of businesses requesting cable television rise 50 percent after the terrorist attacks. Residents asking for cable increased 5 percent, said Tom Haywood, vice president of operations for the Great Lakes region.

"Individuals want them at their work places," he said.

Wal-Mart also reported that ammunition sales doubled and gun sales rose 50 percent Tuesday. In the Buffalo Niagara region, gun stores reported no significant increases. And the Erie County office that issues permits for handguns said the number of applications has held steady.

However, RSR Group, a wholesale distributor of firearms with a warehouse in Rochester, saw orders double on Tuesday and remain above normal for the rest of the week. The biggest demand was for ammunition, said Robert C. Steger, the president and CEO of the Florida-based company.

"No one knew what was happening at first," he said. "It probably seemed like an invasion at the time."

Despite the spikes in sales of those items, overall sales on Tuesday at Wal-Mart fell 10 percent compared with the same day a year ago. By Wednesday, sales at the stores had returned to normal.

"American citizens were really determined to lead their lives as normally as possible," Williams said.

Retailers do not normally release such specific sales figures. Wal-Mart was the only major retailer to release such detailed information this week.

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com

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