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by Gabriel Saldana

Mercedes, TX — A lone security guard rode a two-wheel scooter along empty walkways between the stores at the outlet mall here Wednesday afternoon.

A man wearing a surgical mask sat alone on a sidewalk bench waiting for his wife to come out of a dress shop. Only 30 or so customers were moving about in the entire outlet complex.

Shops wouldn’t normally be bustling midweek, but rarely are they so “dead,” as one store manager put it.

The swine flu scare has already slowed things at Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets and store managers are bracing for possibly even less business heading into a Mexican holiday weekend.

Joe Ocañas, manager at the Rue21 clothing store, said he has seen foot traffic dwindle since news of the swine flu outbreak broke this past weekend.

“It was real slow yesterday. We only made about $700,” he said Wednesday. “Usually on weekdays √â it’s a little slow, but it was dead.”
Oca√±as said he fears news of the flu will scare away Mexican shoppers whom, he says, make up about 90 percent of the store’s business.

“There’s so much negativity in the news,” he said. “With swine flu and the economy, it just makes people not want to show (up).”

Elizabeth Ramirez, a manager at the Quicksilver clothing store, said she suspects there will be a slight decrease in traffic compared with what can usually be expected during the Mexican Primero de Mayo and Cinco de Mayo holidays.

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