Tristate Area Struggling Back After Sandy

Signs of normalcy began to return to the New York metropolitan region on Monday, a week after the hurricane tore through the area.

NEW YORK — Some signs of normalcy began to return to the New York metropolitan region on Monday, a week after Hurricane Sandy tore through the area, although Staten Island, Long Island and areas of New Jersey remained devastated with power still out and relief efforts ongoing.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Lower Manhattan was heavily impacted by the storm surge on Oct. 29. “Things are a lot better than they seem,” said Daniel Ackerman, chief of staff of the Downtown Alliance.

“A lot of our district is back to normal,” said Nicole Kolinsky, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Alliance. “The first day [of the storm] there was no power so a vast majority of retailers were closed. More and more businesses open every single hour. The A [subway line] was just restored today. The only line that’s still not running is the G line.”

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Businesses at the South Street Seaport have not yet opened, and the South Ferry Terminal, which was severely flooded, remains closed.

“In terms of the level of devastation, we made out very well,” Kolinsky said.

Century 21, the off-price department store on Cortlandt Street in the Financial District, will return to normal operating hours today. Century 21 lost power on Oct. 29 and while power was restored Nov. 1, it didn’t have enough staff to open the store, said an employee. Since Nov. 2, Century 21 has been operating on a curtailed hurricane schedule, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rather than 7:45 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The major discount stores were up and running as of Sunday or Monday. Target said all stores in the affected area had reopened as of Monday, while Wal-Mart stores were all open as of Sunday.

“The World Financial Center actually fared very well,” said Matthew Cherry, a spokesman for Brookfield Properties. “There was only a very brief period when power was out; it was cut preemptively on Monday, Oct. 29, as a precautionary measure.” Traffic at the WFC was “certainly lighter,” Cherry said, “considering a lot of people couldn’t get down here because the subways weren’t running.”

Some retailers are moving past Sandy and looking ahead to the holidays. While Sears still has five stores shuttered, Tom Aiello, divisional vice president, said the retailer will open at 8 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day and stay open overnight until 10 p.m. on Black Friday. Kmart stores on Thanksgiving Day will open at 6 a.m. local time until 4 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Black Friday. Kmart will reopen on Black Friday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Both retailers will be closed Christmas Day. “At Sears we didn’t do this last year,” Aiello said, adding that the change was in response to shoppers, who wanted more flexibility and options to shop doorbusters.

Sears’ move follows that of Lord & Taylor, which will open its New York flagship on Fifth Avenue on Thanksgiving Day.

The supply chain’s impact on holiday sales is a concern. “The impact seems to increase exponentially the longer the ports remain shut down,” said John Martin, principal of Martin Associates, a maritime consultant. “New York facilities are significantly damaged or closed down,” he said. “There may be damage in warehouses or distribution centers housing holiday merchandise. All the fast fashion will be clearly impacted. You’re filling orders for hot items. If you don’t have sufficient inventory,” you’ll lose sales.

The gas shortage is also complicating the situation. “You’re going to have gas, but the time it takes to fill up could reduce trucking time by 25 percent,” Martin said. “That will affect distribution to stores, especially as we approach Black Friday. We have two-and-a-half weeks to work out the kinks.”

More than supply chain issues, Dave Marcotte, senior vice president of retail insight at Kantar Retail, sees other factors impacting the holiday season. “People aren’t working,” he said. “People are cautious and people don’t have a house to live in.”

On Monday, a message from the Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security was a reminder of more bad weather on the way, with a major nor’easter expected to hit the East Coast. “The storm is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon throughout the night until Thursday morning,” the office said.