Chains step up as Hurricane Irma takes toll on business

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NEW YORK — Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States, sent retail spending in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area of Florida spiraling downward, with sales plunging more than 72% over a three-day period, according to payment technology company First Data Corp.

The company, which tracks online and in-store payments on debit and credit cards, reported that overall spending, which included gas, food, water and first aid supplies, fell more than 57% in the September 8 to September 10 period, compared to a year ago.

Across the state, drug chains, supermarkets and mass merchandisers shuttered stores as blasts of wind over 100 miles per hour wreaked havoc and rain flooded streets. Power was knocked out for more than 4 million electric customers. The overall damage from Irma is estimated to be over $100 billion.

The hurricane is expected to have a “modestly negative” impact on Walmart and dollar stores including Dollar General, as demand for food, batteries and water before and after the storm offset losses from store closures, according to Gordon Haskett analyst Charles Grom. Supply chains are also expected to be disrupted across the board, which could lead to delays in delivery of holiday inventories for some retailers as well.

To help with relief efforts, some chain drug retailers were able to set up mobile triage pharmacies to fill prescriptions, help meet medical needs and provide emergency supplies at locations that were able to remain open.

As with Harvey, many retailers pitched in with sizeable donations and supplies for Irma relief. Walgreens committed to a $200,000 donation to American Red Cross Hurricane Irma relief efforts and also donated supplies of water and food to relief efforts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The company reported that Walgreens customers could donate to Red Cross hurricane relief efforts at its locations as well.

CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation announced a $125,000 donation in cash and in-kind product donations to organizations helping with relief efforts. In addition, CVS Pharmacy and CVS Caremark activated a process that allows pharmacists to provide one-time emergency refills of a 10-day supply of medication for plan members in areas impacted by Hurricane Irma. The retailer was also stocking stores with more emergency items, such as bottled water, batteries, flashlights and first aid ­supplies.

Walmart committed up to $10 million in additional support for 2017 U.S. hurricane relief efforts. This brings the total donated by Walmart to hurricane relief efforts this year to $30 million, building on the support provided in response to Hurricane Harvey just weeks earlier. Walmart is matching customer donations two-to-one with cash and product donations of up to $10 million to support American Red Cross disaster response efforts.

The company also activated its Emergency Operations Center, which operates 24/7 tracking the impact of storms, aiding employees in need and supporting employees’ well-being. In addition, the retailer has shipped more than 1,700 truckloads of emergency merchandise and water to customers in need.

Target Corp. announced that the company is committing up to $1 million in cash and in-kind donations to support communities that were impacted.

Genoa identified backup pharmacies located in safe areas and was answering calls to fill and deliver prescriptions for affected sites and consumers. Genoa also designated pharmacy triage locations to field consumer calls and fill prescriptions for impacted sites and also activated Genoa’s call center to proactively reach out to consumers and coordinate needed refills.

Albertsons Cos. Foundation donated $1 million to the Hand in Hand telethon for hurricane relief.

H-E-B sent supply trucks with water, ice and cleaning supplies from its warehouse in Houston to the Publix Super Markets Inc. headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., about 35 miles east of Tampa. H-E-B was returning the favor after Publix sent water, generators and cleaning supplies to H-E-B stores when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last month.

In addition, Publix was working with its suppliers to provide essential items to potentially impacted stores. The company’s pharmacies are receiving medications more frequently to assist in filling prescriptions, and its manufacturing facilities are working to produce essential items for consumers.

Lastly, Winn-Dixie, which had launched a community donation program in support of the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, reported that it was doing everything possible to keep stores open in areas impacted by Hurricane Irma where it was possible and safe to do so.


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