NY, NJ shops remain closed as retailers begin taking stock of damage

Workers pump water out of a flooded Citibank branch in New York's financial district Oct. 31, 2012. The U.S. Northeast began crawling back to normal on Wednesday after monster storm Sandy crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed at least 45 people in nine states with a massive storm surge and rain that caused epic flooding.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Workers pump water out of a flooded Citibank branch in New York's financial district Oct. 31, 2012. The U.S. Northeast began crawling back to normal on Wednesday after monster storm Sandy crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed at least 45 people in nine states with a massive storm surge and rain that caused epic flooding.
Posted Oct. 31, 2012, at 10:53 a.m.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Retailers from Walgreen to Macy’s kept stores shuttered in hard-hit New York and New Jersey while reopening some other East Coast locations as they worked to assess the damage to their shops and sales.

While food merchants will benefit from consumers stocking up before the storm and home-improvement retailers will gain from the clean-up, clothing and department stores won’t get a chance to make up the loss, Poonam Goyal, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries in Princeton, N.J., said Tuesday. The hit may even affect sales during the crucial holiday shopping season, she said.

“The wild card here is when will stores reopen,” Goyal said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “If stores will not reopen for the next two or three weeks, it’s going to impact holiday sales.”

Sandy, spanning 900 miles, slammed into southern New Jersey at about 8 p.m. New York time and brought a record storm surge of 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) into Manhattan’s Battery Park. Flooding, high winds and fallen trees cut power to about 8 million customers from South Carolina to Maine, and travelers were stranded as U.S. airlines grounded about 12,500 flights. U.S. stock trading is closed again Tuesday in the first back-to-back shutdown for weather since 1888.

Record tides from the storm combined with hours of pounding wind and rain to flood electrical substations and shut down New York’s financial district. Eqecat, an Oakland, Calif.-based provider of catastrophic risk models, estimated on Tuesday that Sandy would cause as much as $20 billion of economic damage with about $5 billion to $10 billion of that in insured losses.

Wal-Mart now has about 100 of its namesake and Sam’s Club locations closed, Mark Cooper, senior director of global emergency management for the retailer, said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Company officials have received no reports of significant damage to facilities and merchandise losses were minimal, Cooper said earlier on a conference call. Stores will reopen as roads are cleared and power returns or generators are put into use, he said.

“Trucks are loaded and ready to go as soon as stores come open,” he said.

Target was still assessing damage this morning, spokeswoman Jessica Deede said Tuesday. About 30 stores were using generators for power, and about 60 still were closed, Deede said. Some of those were expected to reopen later Tuesday, she said.

Lowe’s, which had 200 locations in the affected area, has four stores closed, the company said today in an e-mailed statement. A store in Rosedale, N.Y., was damaged by water while the other closed stores, which are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are shut because of power outages.

Macy’s stores and offices in New York City and in central and northern New Jersey remain closed, said Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman. Stores in the Washington area and other parts of the East Coast have begun reopening Tuesday, he said.

“The determining factor is if the store and shopping center have electricity, and if associates are able to get to work,” Sluzewski said in an e-mail. The retailer had closed 130 Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores all day Monday and closed an additional 65 stores early, he said.

The company has no reports of significant damage or injuries to workers, Sluzewski said. It is impossible to estimate lost sales at this point, he said.

Macy’s, based in Cincinnati, has more than 800 U.S. stores.

Saks’s main store in Manhattan as well stores in New Jersey, Connecticut and on New York’s Long Island will reopen Wednesday, said Julia Bentley, a spokeswoman. The retailer, whose head offices in New York still are closed, will begin assessing damage Tuesday, she said. The company planned to reopen stores in the Washington area and in Pennsylvania starting late this morning.

Macy’s and Saks are among the retailers most likely to be hurt by Sandy, data compiled by Bloomberg Industries show. Macy’s has about 30 percent of its stores located in the storm states, and Saks has about 27 percent of its locations there. The retailers reported a 150 basis-point loss to August sales last year because of Hurricane Irene.

Nordstrom, the Seattle-based chain of more than 100 department stores, had 15 stores still closed Tuesday with many others opening late, partly because mass transit disruptions prevented some employees from getting to work, said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman. Stores had minor water damage, and the company hasn’t yet estimated the effect on sales, she said.

Walgreen, which owns the Duane Reade chain, had closed about 620 stores as of 9 a.m., according to its website. Beginning last week, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen stocked shelves with extra water, batteries, flashlights and medications, the company said Monday.

Walgreen, the largest drugstore chain in the United States, said it has 160 electricity generators to help power East Coast stores and dry ice to keep certain medicines cold.

The storm may benefit mass merchants’ October sales as shoppers stocked up on water and food before it hit, according to Bloomberg Industries. The effect on November sales will be determined by how long stores are closed and how much of Halloween sales were missed, according to the study.

A few Kroger stores along the East Coast have closed after losing power, Carl York, the company’s head of public affairs for its Mid-Atlantic region, said in an interview. Right now, the company is working to open a store in Elkins, W.V., which lost power amid about a foot of snow.

“We’re concentrating on West Virginia now,” he said. “There’s a lot of rain and a lot of snow and we’re worried about flooding.”

No damage has been reported at Kroger’s 122 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, he said. Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery- store chain, is based in Cincinnati.

“We are still very busy,” York said. “We have customers that are coming in and they are buying the milk, bread, water. They’re still bracing for the weather hanging around.”

As of 6 p.m. Monday, all Supervalu’s Acme stores were closed, according to Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company. The third largest U.S. grocery chain also shut its Shoppers chain at 10 p.m. Monday and some Shaw’s and Save-A-Lot stores, he said.

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