Retailers in several Southern states are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Joaquin, which dumped several feet of rain in the Carolinas and elsewhere over the weekend.
In the Northeast, what was initially feared as a blow from Joaquin turned out to be a boost, as the storm veered out into the Atlantic Ocean and failed to hit major population centers. But the cold, rainy conditions it left in its wake pushed consumers to the mall, helping retailers recoup some of the losses they experienced in other markets.
“On the heels of one of the warmest Septembers, you had significant cooldown with rain but not traffic-stopping rain,” Evan Gold, senior vice president of client services at Planalytics, which analyzes the impact of weather on businesses, said of the weather in the Northeast. “It should have been really good for business. It was actually an opportunity to sell fall product. It was a little bit of an anomaly in that a storm is usually a big net negative for softlines, but this was more of a positive.”
Gold stressed that he wasn’t minimizing the devastating flooding in the Carolinas, where several deaths attributed to the storm were reported. “Charleston and Columbia, S.C., had a huge disruption,” Gold said. “Some places got two feet of rain. Major markets got a foot or a foot and a half of rain. It was a huge disruption, no doubt.”
The amount of rain that fell on South Carolina broke records and, according to experts, normally occurs once every 1,000 years. Charleston was especially hard hit. Police on Sunday closed vehicular traffic to the low-lying areas between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, where the historic downtown shopping district is located. On King Street, where retailers such as women’s clothier Anne’s, Brooks Brothers and Francesca’s Collections are located, sidewalks were lined with sandbags to prevent damage from rising water.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said stores in Southern states were most affected by the storm. “All our facilities in the area of the hurricane are now open,” he said. “We’re working with state officials and the Red Cross and providing assistance. In South Carolina yesterday [Monday], there was a request from the state for water and we delivered four truckloads of water. We are still fully engaged to assist customers in the area.”
“In South Carolina, we had a few stores that needed to close early or open late due to things like mandatory curfews,” said a spokeswoman for Target.
The threat of a possible hurricane was significant enough to prompt the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey to declare states of emergency.
The hurricane’s economic impact was initially believed to be in the billions of dollars, including property damage, disruption in manufacturing and lost sales, with the National Hurricane center predicting that Joaquin would hit New York City.
“In the grand scheme, it had a positive impact because it drove consumers to stores in the Northeast,” Gold said.