Coronavirus-Hurt Retailers Brace for Storm Impact As Isaias Heads Toward Carolinas and Eastern Seaboard

Retailers in the Carolinas are keeping a wary eye on Tropical Storm Isaias, which could again become a category 1 hurricane before making landfall on its coast.

Isaias was originally expected to impact communities on the eastern coast of Florida, but has mainly stayed offshore, giving a respite to that state, already grappling with massive outbreaks of COVID-19.

Now, the storm is predicted to hit land later this evening somewhere between Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C., and footwear stores in the area are making preparations.

“The most important thing is to make sure our employees are safe, so we’ll be closing early tonight,” said Ginger Parnell, who helps her husband, Mike, run Shoe Center in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. “And we always take other precautions, like removing anything outside the store. For category 3 storms or higher, we’ll board up the windows, but I don’t think that will be necessary for this storm.”

Similarly, Camelia Frink, assistant manager at the DTLR store in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., confirmed that their store also will close two hours early tonight as a precaution.

If it develops into a category 1 storm, Isaias could bring winds of 74 mph or greater, plus a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above ground level, according to the National Weather Service.

Caressa Baseman, manager of Pawleys Island Shoes, in Pawleys Island, S.C., told FN, “We’re looking at possible flooding in our area. So we’re playing it by ear right now, depending on the weather.”

She added that closing down for the storm would be a double whammy for the store, which is still feeling the effects of the coronavirus shutdowns in the spring. “[Closing for Isaias] would impact our business because we lost so many sales and we still continue to lose revenue. Business is still down.”

Pawleys Island Shoes recently launched an e-commerce site, but Baseman said traffic there is still light. “It’s brand new, and we’re trying to get some of the same sales as those bigger sites,” she said.

Despite the challenges, though, Parnell said Shoe Center plans to reopen to customers tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. “That’s all going to depend on whether there’s damage, and whether we have power,” she said. “But we’re hanging tough. That’s just the way we are in the South, especially when you live on the coast.”

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