Retailers Need to Prepare for Heavy Hurricane Season

Discussion
May 23, 2007

By George Anderson

New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast remain in ruins today nearly two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought devastation to the area. The lessons learned from those storms may prove invaluable this summer, especially if forecasts for higher than normal hurricane activity turn out to be correct.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a 75 percent chance that there will be increased storm activity this season.

Bill Proenza, director of the national hurricane center in Miami, told The Associated Press, “With expectations for an active season, it is critically important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas as well as the Caribbean be prepared.”

There is a concern among some that the relative calm of last summer where there were no major storms along the lines of Katrina and Rita may lead people to take a more lackadaisical approach to preparation for this year.

That, experts say, could prove to be a mistake this year. The first storm, Andrea, formed well before the official June 1 start of the hurricane season.

Consumers, especially those who are not able to get out of the way of incoming storms, are urged to stock up on supplies such as bottled water, flashlights, batteries, candles, shelf-stable foods, first aid kits, backup generators and other items to help them ride out severe weather and its aftermath.

Discussion Questions: What lessons did retailers learn from two summers ago in terms of keeping their businesses up and running following the aftermath of a big storm? What should retailers be doing now to help consumers actively prepare for a busier than normal hurricane season?

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7 Comments on "Retailers Need to Prepare for Heavy Hurricane Season"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 hour ago

Hurricane stock-ups are tricky. Customers often have leftover unused stock from previous seasons. Some customers don’t take hurricane warnings seriously until the very last minute, since there are more warnings than actual disasters. From the staff perspective, every retailer needs to have a very good communications and transportation plan for all the workers, with as much redundancy as possible. Given high staff turnover, every address, e-mail address, and phone number needs to be checked frequently. And it helps to have some relatives’ and friends’ contact info, too.

Justin Time
Guest
15 years 1 hour ago

Anyone reading the various newspaper archives of articles written about Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans saw that certain retailers did a better job than others in reopening.

A&P’s Sav-a-centers and especially the A&P French Quarter Royal Street store had dedicated store employees who worked quickly to reopen. A&P totally rebuilt several of their Sav-a-center stores, incorporating their fresh format that has seen financial success for them the last several years.

But unfortunately, same store comps for last year, the first year after the storm and this year have changed. The retail base is coming back to pre-Katrina levels but the population is not. Therefore this year’s comps for Sav-a-center are not anywhere near the levels of last year, because of increased competition.

People will stock up only if they are shown a reason to do so.

No one wants a repeat of Katrina in New Orleans or any part of the Gulf Coast. But if that intensity of hurricane damage is felt again, only the strongest retailers would survive.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 1 hour ago

I’ve been doing a lot of work in New Orleans since the Hurricane. Stores in the metro area that were up and running first were those that did not get looted. Sure, the ones in flooded areas were closed for months or never reopened. There really is not much you can do if ten feet of water comes rushing into your store.

Those in the less flood damaged areas received extensive damage from looters and this is something that certainly can be prevented. Retailers would be wise to hire heavily armed guards to camp out in the stores during the storm. Personally, I would just grease the palms of the local fire and police captains and offer them some gratuity to camp out at my store during the storm.

Not sure if there is any better way to prepare consumers. Residents have had 300 years to learn what to do. If they haven’t learned by now, they never will.

Jeffery M. Joyner
Guest
Jeffery M. Joyner
15 years 1 hour ago
I come from a long history of working in markets where hurricanes and other natural disasters take their toll on human existence. There are many and frequent reports about the bad things that happen during such events. Many of the stories seen in the media right after a natural disaster seems designed to “create the compelling news story.” However, with all the drama being played on the airwaves, there are just as many if not more real stories of people helping people. Those are the ones that move me. Retailers can do their part when disaster strikes if we are prepared. We simply first have to make up our minds that we are a part of the community. Any retailer can do this. Doing so with not just a “for profit” motive, but also because the retailers wish to earn the right to be respected and valuable members of the community. Creating depots where food staples, water and other supplies which can be accessed easily is appreciated by those people who may be left behind… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 1 hour ago

Being able to rely on an efficient supply chain that is also flexible is critical in these situations. Stocking more product in anticipation of hurricanes is a seasonal issue that local stores have to consider. However, overstocking is also a financial risk. Having a more than a normal level of stock available for those who are “anticipating” a hurricane is important. Being able to divert stock and bring in extra stock to those stores still open in the area after a disaster is critical. However, that is only possible if your supply chain is flexible enough to respond to increased need and allows for that kind of diversion on a moment’s notice.

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
15 years 1 hour ago

As a person who grew up in the Crescent City, I can tell you that preparing for and recovering from a hurricane is far different that the massive flood damage created by Katrina. A shopper can have all the candles, shelf staple food, batteries, etc., but when you have a 10 foot flood of water covering miles of your community, those preparations don’t really matter.

There are many wonderful examples and plans in place to serve shoppers with their pre-hurricane needs, and hurricane prone areas have a lot of history and planning which they turn to when a storm is on the way and put in place once the storm passes through.

Using Katrina as an example can work with what took place along the Mississippi Coast, but not with New Orleans, due to massive flooding being the more overriding, long term issue facing residents and retailers in that still devastated city.

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 1 hour ago

I disagree with many of my fellow panelists. The ability to plan and stock-up for the hurricane season is the same as it has been in years past. The problem comes in getting retailers to truly put value into the early warning systems and to support the supply chain venues that are open to them. Despite all of the warnings (and early warnings) retailers will continue to have a minimal amount of storm solutions on hand including water, batteries, tape, rope, etc. Getting these products, and getting them early will allow these retailers to have enough quantity of these items to not only meet demand, but to emphasize their importance to their customers through storm sales and other promotions. This will give them a vehicle to sell the products while still demonstrating a prepared retailing effort for this storm season.

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