For Target and Richfield-based Best Buy, doing business in the hurricane-swept Gulf Coast region this summer turned into an ongoing exercise in crisis management. The wind damage, flooding,looting and mass evacuations were just the start, with the aftermath of the storms proving every bit as challenging. From reopening damaged stores to finding displaced workers (or any worker), the events in Louisiana and Mississippi will serve as the ultimate case study on how retailers can cope with natural disasters, company executives say.
I wrote the above story in October 2005 from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast. Now, almost exactly seven years later, I could simply cut and paste the paragraph and replace Gulf Coast with Mid-Atlantic and Louisiana and Mississippi with New York and New Jersey.
Just as Hurricane Katrina knocked retailers off balance so did Hurricane Sandy as the powerful storm swept through the Mid Atlantic region. Both hurricanes caused massive flooding that forced retailers and other businesses to rewrite their natural disaster response plans: store damage, curfews, employee communications, blackouts, mass evacuations, etc.
As of Wednesday, Target said all but three of the 200 stores the company shuttered on Monday are open. Ten other stores have reduced hours, mostly due to damaged lights in the parking lots.
“Our teams are working diligently to make contact with all team members,” Target spokeswoman Jessica Deede wrote in an e-mail. “Given the large number of stores impacted, we anticipate this process to take place over a few days.”
About 40 Target stores are still operating on backup generators. Many stores suffered damage to front doors and roofs, which are leaking water, Deede said.
As for Best Buy, spokeswoman Amy Von Walter said about 30 stores are still closed or opening at later hours.
Both spokeswomen declined to comment on the storm’s possible financial impact on Target and Best Buy’s fourth quarter performance.