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Retailers lend hand in Hurricane Irma relief

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Walmart, Walgreens, CVS among chains committing support

Walmart_Hurricane Irma

Walmart has shipped more than 1,700 truckloads of emergency merchandise and water to customers in need.

NEW YORK — Retailers stepped forward to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Irma even as they continued their own recovery efforts to get stores and other facilities back into operation.

Across Florida, where Irma made landfall in the continental United States last Saturday, drug chains, supermarkets and mass merchandisers shuttered stores as winds topping 100 miles per hour and sheets of rain flooded streets and knocked out power for more than 4 million electric customers. The overall damage from Irma is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., Irma sent retail spending in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area downward, with sales plunging more than 72% over a three-day period, according to debit and credit card payment processor First Data Corp.

Overall spending, which included gas, food, water and first aid supplies, fell more than 57% year over year for the period of Sept. 8 to 10, First Data reported.

H-E-B_Hurricane Irma

Texas grocer H-E-B delivered supplies to Publix after the Florida-based supermarket chain gave assistance following Hurricane Harvey.

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 Charles Grom analyst Gordon Haskett. Supply chains are expected to be disrupted across the board, which could lead to delays in delivery of holiday inventories for some retailers as well.

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

Many retailers also pitched in with sizable donations and supplies.

Walgreens committed to a $200,000 donation to American Red Cross Hurricane Irma relief efforts and donated supplies of water and food to relief efforts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The company reported that customers could also donate to Red Cross hurricane relief efforts at its store 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 in areas by Hurricane Irma.

CVS also was 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. That brought the total committed by Walmart to hurricane relief  this year to $30 million, building on the support for Hurricane Harvey just weeks earlier.

Hurricane Irma

Total damage from Irma is estimated at over $100 billion.

The retail giant also 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, too, activated its Emergency Operations Center, which operates 24 hours a day, tracking the storm’s impact and supporting their employee needs and 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.

Behaviorial health pharmacy Genoa identified backup pharmacies located in safe areas and was answering calls as well as filling and delivering prescriptions for affected sites and patients. The company also designated pharmacy triage locations to field calls and prescriptions for any impacted site and activated its call center to reach out to patients and coordinate needed refills.

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

Meanwhile, Texas grocery chain H-E-B sent supply trucks with water, ice and cleaning supplies from its warehouse in Houston to Publix’s 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 in August.

Publix also is working with its suppliers to provide essential items to impacted stores. The chain reported that its pharmacies are receiving medications more frequently to assist in filling prescriptions, and its manufacturing facilities are working to produce essential items for consumers.

Southeastern Grocers supermarket chain Winn-Dixie said it was doing everything possible to keep stores open in areas impacted by Hurricane Irma where it’s safe to do so.


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