Hurricane Sandy ravaged the entire Northeast, impacting about 50 million to 60 million people, along with trillions of dollars worth of property. Though this super storm brought turmoil into many lives and caused widespread destruction, which will take months to recover from, it definitely will bring some positive stimulus to the economy while rebuilding and restoration of the infrastructure takes place.
The impact of Sandy on the retail space has been mixed. Supermarkets, chain drug stores, mass merchants like Walmart, Costco, and Target, as well as grocery and dollar stores experienced a huge surge in traffic. People stocked up on canned food, water, bagged ice, various non-perishables and other essential items. Buyers also rushed to home goods supply stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s to procure supplies like generators, flashlights, batteries and plywood.
Online sales also picked up during Sandy within the communities which were housebound but fortunately with power and Internet. Visits to malls and retailers selling discretionary items like clothing, toys, and apparel dropped significantly. Due to the timing of Sandy, holiday shopping is also expected to be impacted. Various households who incurred property damage costs will most likely slash their holiday budgets and focus more on ‘must-haves’ rather than ‘nice-to-haves.’
While communities are striving to bring normalcy back to their lives, various retailers and manufacturers are generously engaging in charitable efforts. Companies are working with relief agencies and local authorities to provide assistance and funds in various forms. Heineken USA has pledged to match all hurricane related employee donations by five to one. Various beverage companies, like Anheuser-Busch and Nestle Waters, are providing millions of bottles or cans of water to serve the Sandy affected communities. Market leaders like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Starbucks are donating funds to provide resources for necessary food and shelter in the short term and also providing long-term assistance to rebuild the impacted neighborhoods.
While various economists are still trying to assess the actual impact of Sandy on the economy, this traumatic experience certainly will not be forgotten anytime in near future. While the entire nation is struggling to float out of this harrowing experience, it is very critical that companies do not take advantage of the situation and use the excuse of Sandy to increase prices. It is definitely the time when manufacturers and retailers should contribute to the communities and show that they care.
What Sandy relief effort from CPG companies have impressed you the most? What were your observations on shopper behavior during this natural disaster? I look forward to hearing your comments.