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'Cane Irene causes heavy rain, flooding but little damage to NE-area retailers, suppliers

Hurricane IreneHurricane Irene flooded the streets outside of the corporate offices of embellished towel, bath coordinates and kitchen textiles company Avanti Linens in Moonachie, N.J. The company reported no power outages, but was surprised to find living fish swimming in its loading dock and some minor water damage to its office carpeting. As Arthur Tauber, founder, chairman and owner of the company said to HTT, "We have plenty of towels to dry this up."
New York - Hurricane Irene stormed through the Northeast over the weekend, leaving some textiles suppliers and retailers in the region powerless and cleaning up the mess Monday.

But the impacts were not harsh enough to cause extensive damage or major sales losses, most agreed.

Macy's offered HTT a recount of the Category 1 hurricane's effects on its store openings and closings over the weekend. On Saturday, 14 stores -- 12 Macy's and two Bloomingdale's -- in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were closed all day. Another 95 stores -- 80 Macy's and 15 Bloomingdale's -- were closed early due to weather conditions and staffing considerations.

Then on Sunday, those numbers rose as the storm approached. The chain said 104 stores, or 94 Macy's and 10 Bloomingdale's, were closed all day and another 26 Macy's stores opened late.

Finally, this morning, 17 stores -- 14 Macy's and three Bloomingdale's -- did not open at the scheduled time, primarily because of power outages and a few from flooding in the area. Many of these stores will be opening as power is restored.

In sum, Macy's told HTT, "No injuries and no significant damage have been reported to date in any of the company's facilities, but physical assessments continue. We will not comment [on] the effect on our business before we report August sales results September 1st."

Westborough, Mass.-based warehouse club BJ's was lucky that "none of our clubs sustained any major damage," Cathy Maloney, vp of investor relations, told HTT. "We worked very hard to stay open as long as we could. We only closed where we were mandated by local authorities to do so."

Maloney added that some club locations did lose utilities but "we're all backed up by generators."

"What happens generally and has again this time is a major surge of traffic prior to the storm because we are a stock-up destination for batteries and water and food," she continued. "But that is offset when we have no business during the storm. There are a lot of communities in Northern New Jersey the Jersey Shore with people who are really struggling with power outages. I imagine we will be a destination for them for their necessities and we'll do our best to have those things available for them."

As was the case with Macy's, BJ's said it is still too early to tell how Irene will impact its September sales outcome. "But we will see a net benefit in August," Maloney noted.

 

The National Retail Federation told HTT it expects Hurricane Irene's impacts on monthly and annual sales to be minimal - if even that.
Ellen Davis, vp, said the storm "should not affect August or September sales from a national standpoint. Hurricane Irene was a significant event for people in its path, but completely insignificant for people around the country. Obviously, some retailers were impacted more than others. But from a macro standpoint, it won't impact 2011 sales at retail at all."

On the supplier side, home textiles industry neighbors in Moonachie, NJ - Avanti Linens and Home Dynamix - suffered minor damage and setbacks.

Jeffrey Kauffman, president and ceo of Avanti, said "we did better than we could have."

The embellished towel, bath coordinates and kitchen textiles manufacturer and supplier suffered some minor water damage on the carpeting of its corporate offices, as well as some flooding - including some live fish - at its loading dock.

"But we never lost power," he added.

Neither did Home Dynamix, which spent much of early weekend preparing for the storm, storing merchandise in high-up shelving spaces and protecting its servers but shutter everything off.

"We are very lucky," said Rami Evar, owner of Home Dynamix, a supplier of rugs, bath mats and other home textiles products. "Everything is up and running."

On Long Island, in Port Washington, NY, family owned and operated Safavieh also took several measures to prepare and protect itself for the storm, said Arash Yaraghi, principal.

"We were fortunate that we were not affected...by power outages, but we were prepared so there would be no disruption to service, and deliveries would continue as they normally do," he said.

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