Irene Vs. Retailers
It’s been quite a week for the East Coast. First came an earthquake (we still can’t believe it) and then Hurricane (later tropical storm) Irene. That latter event has turned into the gift that keeps giving as communities continue to deal with record flood levels days after rain and wind have passed.
Retailers had to ramp up to meet the demand for bottled water, batteries, flashlights and a host of products that consumers needed in preparation for the storm.
Locally, here in this area of New Jersey, stores were overwhelmed by demand. Take bottled water, for example. Authorities recommended that each household have one gallon of water per person for three to seven days. With millions of people in the path of the storm, it took minutes for large sections to be completely cleaned out.
This past Saturday morning, one shipment of bottled water barely made it off the delivery truck. While shopping for supplies at a local supermarket, an announcement was made that a truck was pulling up outside the store with bottles of water. Shoppers quickly queued up outside the store and began grabbing cases as soon as pallets hit the ground.
Retailers, as a piece on the National Retail Federation’s Big Blog pointed out, tracked news reports and made use of weather data to determine where to direct resources. Showing that government and business can work together, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Division briefed the NRF on the Irene’s "projected path, damage estimates, emergency response data such as access and credentialing information once the roads were safe to travel, and links to information about preparation steps." The NRF then briefed members.
Retail chains, the NRF blog mentioned, both Home Depot and Walmart, showed they were largely up to the task of getting products to stores and staying open to supply consumers. Most stores in the path of the storm have reopened and life, albeit more slowly in some places than others, is returning to normal. Walmart, for example, has reopened 263 of its 298 stores on the East Coast closed during the storm.
The industry has learned from each preceding natural disaster to improve performance for the next. What we wonder, have they learned from this one?
- Hurricane Irene tests retailers’ disaster plans – National Retail Federation
- Irene Packs Less Wallop Than Feared – Women’s Wear Daily (sub. required)
- Wal-Mart Dispatches 800 Trucks With Storm Supplies – Bloomberg News
Discussion Questions: What effect do you think Hurricane Irene will have on retail numbers for August and September? What is your assessment of the retail industry’s response to Hurricane Irene?