Just weeks after Florence wreaked havoc on the Carolinas, “extremely dangerous” Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida coast Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles an hour, causing many retailers to batten down their hatches.
Category 4 Michael is expected to be the worst hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in more than 100 years, and residents along the affected areas have been ordered to hunker down by authorities after they ran out of time to evacuate more people.
As a result, much of the retail scene in the worst affected areas was closed for business Wednesday, with Simon Property Group shuttering the doors of three of its malls in the region — Silver Sands Premium Outlets in Destin, Cordova Mall in Pensacola, and Pier Park in Panama City Beach.
Major retailers also closed stores in Georgia and Alabama in addition to Florida as those two states are expected to be hit tonight. Michael is forecast to dump as much as 12 inches of rain over the Florida Panhandle, as well as parts of southeast Alabama and southwest and central Georgia. The Carolinas, still recovering from Florence, will also be impacted.
At the latest count, J.C. Penney had shut five stores in Florida, three in Georgia and three in Alabama, while Walmart Inc. had closed 23 stores in Florida and two in Georgia and Target Inc. had turned the lights off at seven units in Florida, two in Georgia and one in Alabama.
“Local teams are working to secure nearly 330 Target properties in the path of the storm. Some of our stores close to the coast are built with hurricane glass, and on others, we shuttered windows and entrances earlier this week to protect them from the elements,” said a spokeswoman for Target. “We’re also sending generators to many of our facilities to help prepare in case they lose power.”
But Chuck Frank, director of the undergraduate emergency management program at the Metropolitan College of New York, told WWD that while larger retailers have the means and resources to get back on their feet quickly, the storm is going to be “absolutely devastating” for smaller ones.
“Those folks don’t have the resources,” he said. “Mom-and-pop stores and small retail stores that are one of a kind and not part of a chain live and die by their cash flow on a monthly basis and they don’t have means to put everything back together. The government means well, but the bureaucratic process can take months for a portion of the money to come.”