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Twin Storms Heading to the Gulf Coast Could Deal New Blow to Local Retailers

With the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 looming over New Orleans, the city is once again bracing for intense weather with Tropical Storms Marco and Laura headed for the Gulf Coast today.

While some retailers in cities along the storms’ path were preparing for the event by closing doors early to protect employees and property, others less likely to be impacted were taking a business as usual approach.

At Orleans Shoe Co., a four-unit chain with three locations in New Orleans and one in Metairie, La., the store closed at 1 p.m. today to allow employees to safely head home, according to Hal Newbeck, manager at one of its Magazine Street locations in New Orleans. “We’re expecting severe winds and flooding,” said Newbeck. “We want everybody to get home safely and give them time to get essentials such as supplies and water and filling their cars with gas. Officials have said to have five days’ worth of supplies and medications on hand if power goes out or we get stuck at home.”

Newbeck was also moving merchandise from the store’s front windows to avoid any damage from possible flooding, while some neighboring retailers on the street had boarded up their buildings.

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Sharing Newbeck’s concern is Abbey Coleman, sales lead at Bella Rose Boutique, with locations in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, Miss. “Being on the coast, it’s a bipolar situation,” she said. “We have [nearby] islands that break up some of the storms, but how Laura and Marco are looking, it [appears] they will hit us. However, they keep switching every hour.”

To get prepare, Coleman said the store will be boarding up windows and strategically placing sandbags to battle flooding. “Everywhere, you see sandbags on the side of roads. Groceries are getting scarce. That’s how it is here. You prep and stay positive the best you can.”

Expecting to fare better is Run-N-Tri Company, a running store in Gulfport, Miss. According to manager Dana Vergunst, since the city is positioned about 90 minutes east of New Orleans, while it was experiencing some wind action it was not substantial. “We’re still operating with normal business hours and have not had to take any special precautions,” she noted.

Like Run-N-Tri Company, Shoe La La, a boutique in Lafayette, La., also had no plans to close its doors early. “We’re so used to hurricanes here and it’s hard to tell where the path is and where the hurricane is going to end up,” said a store associate. “We’re in the cone and it could possibly head here, although Marco has kind of died down. We typically get worse thunderstorms than that. For Laura, we just don’t know that yet.”

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