After Sandy, Retailers Brace for Nor’easter

New York and Connecticut footwear retailers that took a wallop from Hurricane Sandy are bracing for yet another storm.

As of Tuesday, a nor’easter was expected to make landfall in Sandy-trampled areas on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing strong winds, rain and possibly more coastal flooding. Storeowners who were just beginning post-Sandy recovery said they expected this week’s conditions to hamper those efforts.

“The [weather] is having a major impact on the retail business,” said Jon Singer, founder and CEO of Singer 22 boutique, with two locations in East Hills, N.Y. “We could potentially be down for three weeks, which will have a snowball effect [on the season].”

The CEO noted that both his stores were still without electricity. “I’m hoping this next storm does not delay the process of getting power restored, but I have a feeling it will,” he added. “There are still tons of trees and power lines down all over the place.” Singer said gas shortages were also impeding efforts to get back to normal. “Commuting is almost an impossibility at this point,” he said. “I continue to pay my employees even though no one is able to work.”

At the Hawley Lane Shoes chain in Connecticut, prospects are looking questionable for the next few weeks, said owner Dave Levy. “It’s very scary, to be honest,” he said. “In an already tough economy, this is the icing on the cake. [Hurricane Sandy] was pretty devastating for us. It wiped out most of our revenue the day before it hit, and we still haven’t seen things come back to normal. I don’t have a good feeling about Wednesday or Thursday.”

Levy added that all four of his stores, located in Shelton, Orange, Stamford and Norwalk, had lost power during the hurricane and only reopened this week. “Several hundred thousand dollars in revenue were just wiped out,” the retailer said. “We [then] reopened to no traffic. The big problem is that the majority of people [who live near] my stores were out of power, and there are still a lot of people [with no electricity] today.”

French Sole’s locations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side were minimally affected by last week’s storm, but the boutique in Greenwich, Conn., experienced a significant slowdown and will probably see more of the same this week, said owner Randy Ochart. “The Connecticut store, [compared with] New York, was much slower [before and after Sandy],” he noted. “People were very reticent to come out.” As for the impending nor’easter, Ochart said, “I think it will have a negative affect. People won’t be out shopping.”

Ochart added that the combined effects of the storms could make a tough fall season even more challenging. “Retail has been very difficult these past couple weeks. Business was slow even before the hurricane,” he said.

But the executive was hopeful that fall temperatures and the presidential election could put retailers on stronger footing. “Post-election, depending on what the reaction is, the market could pick up because people will be stimulated to spend money,” Ochart said. “Also, if we have a couple of those nice, a little bit chilly, November days, people will go back out there and buy the things they didn’t buy. If we get a cold snap, people will run out and buy boots.”

Billy Lawson, owner of Shoe Inn, with locations throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, was also optimistic that business would rebound quickly — nor’easter or not. “We are hopeful that the consumer will get back on track and think about boots and cold-weather footwear,” the retailer said. “We’re all hoping that this is simply a bad two weeks in what looks to be a decent season.”

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