WAR REACTION : Southland Business Little Affected as Conflict Escalates


At Southern California shopping malls, car dealerships, airports and other places of commerce, it was business as usual Sunday, despite the start of the ground war in the Persian Gulf.

Overseas in London, the escalation in the fighting had no immediate effect on war risk insurance, although the War Risks Rating Committee, which sets rates for marine and air cargo, could change them when it meets this morning, as expected. The committee, made up of members of Lloyd’s and the Institute of London Underwriters, always meets when significant war-related developments occur.

Denzil Stuart, spokesman for the Institute of London Underwriters, said that if the allies have entered, or are going to enter, Kuwait via an amphibious landing, “there’s a possibility we’ll get some changes in war risk insurance rates.” He says such a landing “could trigger the release of more (floating) mines, which could move south” into Gulf merchant shipping lanes.

Although local business conditions could change as details of the ground assault emerge, so far consumer spending and business activity seem less affected by the long-threatened ground war than they appeared to be when allied forces launched a surprise air attack last month. At that time, many Americans stayed glued to their television sets instead of venturing out to shop.


“It’s not going to change anything whether I stay at home to watch television or not,” said Bill Bissell, a Tustin resident, who decided to go shopping Sunday. “When the war first started, the news was there. Now everything is repeated. If I turned on the news today, I’d say there’s nothing different than it was last night.”

“The war is over in Iraq, not here,” added Lee Matthews, sales manager for Connell Chevrolet in Costa Mesa. He said customer traffic at his dealership wasn’t affected Sunday. “I don’t think people are watching at home because there’s no (new) news.”

Audience ratings for weekend television programs were not available Sunday night. But a variety of businesses reported that consumer traffic was normal or above normal for a weekend.

Disneyland spokesman John McClintock said the Anaheim theme park was crowded all day Saturday and early Sunday afternoon.

“The last two weeks have actually been very healthy,” he said. “I don’t know why that is, but the weather has been unusually good, and we have discounts for local residents in effect. But it’s still a particularly crowded day at Disneyland.”

The Glendale Galleria attracted a normal Sunday crowd of shoppers, according to several store managers. And at Fashion Island shopping mall in Newport Beach, crowds were actually bigger than usual because the mall sponsored a 10-kilometer race that drew 5,400 joggers. Crowds lingered to listen to bands and other live entertainment after the morning race.

“I think there are people out here because they feel the ground war is going to wrap everything up,” said Jim Roberts, announcer for the race and owner of Balboa Beach Co., a beachwear store in Newport Beach. “Retail sales should pick up as the war concludes.”

Airlines, however, continued to suffer through one of the worst travel seasons on record as the ground war unfolded.


Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Victor Zonana in New York, Dean Takahashi in Orange County and correspondent Jeff Kaye in London.