By Kelli B. Grant
Plenty of stores were slow to reopen post-Irene. That, and their slow traffic now as consumers recover, could mean better deals later this fall.
While supermarkets and hardware stores are the typical beneficiaries of a pre-storm economic boost as shoppers stock up on flashlights and bottled water, spending in a disaster’s aftermath is just as predictable. “It’s recovery and restaurants, and nothing else,” says Scott Bernhardt, the chief operating officer for Planalytics, a research firm that studies weather and business.
Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe’s are usually the first to reopen. And as today’s Wall Street Journal reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency often considers how many Waffle House restaurants in an area are open, whether they are serving a limited menu, and how big the crowds are when determining just how bad a particular storm was. “After something like Irene, people hit the fast-service restaurants like crazy,” says Bernhardt, who is among the estimated 400,000-plus Pennsylvania residents still without power. “I don’t go to the grocery store, because I can’t store the food.”
Most other retailers take a more cautious approach, simply because they know that consumers aren’t in a rush to get a few more back-to-school items while the power is out and there’s three feet of water in the basement. “People don’t hurry to the mall, and the malls know that,” he says. That can mean that businesses in an affected area will offer better sales and deeper discounts in coming weeks, as a way to play catch-up, Bernhardt says. Look for earlier fall sales, and even limited hurricane-specific deals. To that end, banks have already jumped in with “hurricane” discounts on loans.