Hurricane Matthew: Retailers Grapple With Sluggish Business in the Aftermath of Historic Storm

Hurricane Matthew spent several days ravaging parts of the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving unimaginable destruction and devastation in its wake.

While many homes and retail properties were spared in Florida as the storm dealt a softer-than-expected blow to some parts of the state, retailers throughout the Southern coastal areas say a slowdown in business is one of the many challenges left behind in the aftermath of the deadly storm.

Florida shoe stores Peltz Shoes in Clearwater, Kemp’s Shoe Salon & Boutique in Vero Beach and Soles Inc. in Miami Beach said they suffered no damage from the storm but are looking to recoup sales lost from having to remain closed during Hurricane Matthew’s visit.

Meg Offut, president of Kemp’s, said the store complied with an evacuation order and was closed part of Wednesday, and throughout Thursday and Friday.

We came back on Saturday and got [reorganized] and opened up but there was no people around [to do any shopping],” Offut said. “People were busy un-boarding their own homes and a lot of them didn’t even have electricity.”

Meanwhile, Larry Koonce, owner of John Allen Shoes in Fayetteville, N.C., said he’s counting his blessings after seeing his part of the state pummeled with 14 inches of rain. Although his store was spared damage, Koonce said he expects that a resulting slowdown in business will linger as those affected by the storm, which has reportedly claimed 10 lives in North Carolina and 20 total, rightfully prioritize their own recovery.

It’s not a one-day [recovery] kind of thing,” Koonce said. “It could take weeks because people are also recovering from having to buy extra [supplies] to [prepare for and clean up after the storm] — all of that makes a difference.”

Margaret Lee, store manager at Fayetteville’s Burlington Shoes, estimates that the store missed out on a good chunk of the $15,000 to $16,000 in revenues it usually earns on weekends after closing early on Saturday. Even though Burlington Shoes resumed regular operating hours on Sunday, store traffic was sluggish as other nearby businesses remained closed due to power outages.

“Traffic is still pretty slow today — [the storm] has made a huge difference,” Lee said Monday.

Overall, retail traffic slid nearly 7 percent during the past week, and same-store traffic was down 5.2 percent. According to Citi Research analyst Kate McShane, weather was a factor in the decline.

Year-to-date, total U.S. retail visits are down 4.3 percent.

hurricane matthew damage
Edisto Beach, S.C.
CREDIT: REX Shutterstock.
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