While Florida retailers are still assessing the fallout from Hurricane Ian, the stores that missed the worst of the storm are planning to reopen as the state moves into recovery mode.
But a return to normal is still a long way off. Across Florida, there’s devastation and reports of loss of life and people stranded in the wake of the massive storm, which on Thursday was moving out of the state and bound to make landfall in South Carolina on Friday.
The powerful category 4 hurricane caused catastrophic flooding, shut down cities and towns, destroyed roads and bridges, and damaged thousands and thousands homes and commercial properties through the western, central and northern portions of Florida.
Preliminary damage estimates are in the tens of billions of dollars.
While being downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, Ian is expected to regain strength and its hurricane status on Friday, and cause further destruction in the Carolinas and Georgia.
“Macy’s is closely monitoring the situation by location,” said a spokeswoman. “The safety of our customers and associates is our top priority as 20 of our southeast Florida area Macy’s stores remain closed today. As this is an ongoing situation, we do not have a damage assessment at this time. We look forward to reopening to continue to serve our customers and the community.” Macy’s has donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross to support Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
At Saks Fifth Avenue, “We continue to monitor the situation surrounding Hurricane Ian and are prioritizing the safety of our associates. We are grateful that our associates are safe, and that our stores in both Sarasota and Naples have experienced minimal damage,” a spokeswoman said. “Both locations will remain closed today, Sept. 29, and we plan to reopen the Sarasota store tomorrow, Sept. 30. Our Naples store does not currently have power and its reopening status will be dependent on the restoration of power. We are committed to supporting our team through our Associate Relief Fund and are thinking of all of those affected by this disaster.”
As of midday Thursday, Walmart had more than 250 stores and warehouse clubs closed due to the hurricane.
Around the same time Thursday, Bloomingdale’s reported that its store in Orlando was expected to reopen Friday. “We have someone in there right now looking to see if there are any damages, but at this point we believe we are fine,” said a Bloomingdale’s executive.
At JCPenney, “We’re still assessing the damages and will continue to keep our associates and customers updated as more information becomes available,” a spokeswoman said.
“It’s still a little early to tell the full extent of damages, but there is a long recovery period for those most impacted,” said Evan Gold, executive vice president of global partnerships and alliances at Planalytics. “In addition, the storm is currently exiting the East coast of Florida and will head north toward Charleston, South Carolina. While it won’t be as strong compared to Florida, it has had/will have similar business impacts to what [was expected] yesterday. We will quickly move into recovery and replenishment mode as soon as it is deemed safe to do so (i.e., roads opened, etc.) and businesses will look to safely reopen, and restock shelves — particularly for need-based items. For the next few days, businesses will look to serve their communities as best they can while ensuring the safety and security of their employees. Water levels could rise as high as 7 feet near historic Charleston, South Carolina. Ian’s winds reached 70 miles per hour in the Atlantic, the National Weather Service said in an advisory. While it is now a tropical storm, Ian is forecast to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane.”
Waterside Shops, an upscale, 60-retailer open-air center in Naples, and the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, which has 150-plus stores, were shuttered Thursday. With power still out in Naples, Waterside Shops, which had some wind damage and landscaping debris, will remain closed Friday. The majority of the stores in the Mall at Millenia, which was primarily subject to heavy rainfall and “a little bit of standing water in the parking lot” were expected to reopen Friday, according to Nate Forbes, managing director of The Forbes Company, which operates 5 million square feet of luxury shopping space primarily in Florida and Michigan.
Both malls closed early Tuesday. A couple thousand employees work in the Orlando mall and several hundred are employed in the Naples shopping center. Noting how the Orlando mall houses Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus among other stores, Forbes estimated that the loss of business due to the storm was “in the millions of dollars for sure.”
As for how local residents’ personal property damage may shift their spending behavior, Forbes said in the short run, people will focus on ensuring their communities are cleaned up and tended to, and deal with any damage. “Then I think people want to get back to things that make them feel good — socializing and going to places that make them feel good. Shopping is one of those social activities. You want to resume that normal activity. You know that your home and repairs will be waiting for you, but shopping is part of the social fabric of our community. People will want to get back to that pretty quickly.”
With the storm damage still being assessed, the Forbes team is open to providing support for employees by “helping with food or [providing] a place to come,” Forbes said, adding that the ongoing power outage and downed cell towers and phone towers in the Naples area have made communicating with team members “very limited.”
Forbes said, “I don’t expect us to have any insurance claims from this. Typically, wind damage and landscaping damage on the exterior are not covered under insurance. From what I’m hearing, most of what is happening is cleanup in and around the [shopping] center, exterior landscaping, some water, but not much in the building, and minor roof leaks. We might be in pretty good shape. The biggest thing is going to be getting power back on in the Naples area. There are still 2.5 million people in the state of Florida without power. It could take some time to get all of that power restored on the west coast of Florida.
In Orlando, the 41 stores at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores in Orlando remained closed Thursday but planned to reopen Friday. Ian has resulted in two lost days of business and “several hundred thousand dollars” for the shopping center, according to senior vice president Larry Cohen.
At Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, there was “a great deal of tree branches blown all around, a little water damage and a couple of awnings were damaged,” Cohen said. Traffic in the area was “very low” Thursday, as government officials have advised people not to drive, due to high water, Cohen said, adding, “We’ve had no contact with insurance staff or heard of any major issues. Our property did not suffer any major damage. Clearly the center lost two days of business, which is several hundred thousand dollars.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said helicopters were rescuing people from islands. Also, thousands of national guardsmen from different states were being called out to help rescue people and assist communities in other ways.
President Biden said the federal government will cover 100 percent of the amount it costs Florida in emergency responses.
Biden was quoted as saying, “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”