As Hurricane Irene moves on, leaving less damage than anticipated in, for example, New York, while packing a punch in Philadelphia, which experienced levels of flooding it hasn’t seen in 140 years, the general outlook for the storm’s impact on retail in the Northeast isn’t as negative as feared.
While obviously taking over during a weekend that would normally have been huge for back-to-school shopping, the hurricane is not expected to hurt overall August retail sales too badly. Peter Morici, a business school professor from the University of Maryland, estimated that the national cost of lost sales and storm damage could reach $40 billion. Other estimates put the number closer to $20 billion, but either way, it’s a cost that could have been far worse.
And an interesting addendum to all the number-crunching? Had stores, particularly in malls, been open, some surmise that shoppers would actually have come out in the storm. “Believe it or not, a lot of folks that lose power find the mall a safe haven,” Elizabeth Natwick, senior marketing manager for Tysons Corner Center Mall in MacLean, Virginia, told WWD. (So maybe malls have a future after all — as shelters with built-in entertainment). In the meantime, it’s great for retail that they mostly need to focus on re-opening, not on totally re-building.