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Seeking Silver Linings In A Cloud Of Devastation

It seems almost selfish to search for silver linings too soon among the darkest clouds of utter devastation.

How can anyone begin to contemplate optimism with millions still sifting through unthinkable physical and emotional wreckage? 

But such is the natural progression from despair to hope that fuels humanity in the aftermath of catastrophe.

Hurricane Sandy— like South Florida’s Hurricane Andrew, the Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters before it— will scar communities, businesses, families and lives indefinitely. Much of what was lost can’t be replaced.

Cooperative Effort

Yet it could strengthen a fragile society in ways previously unimaginable.

What a sight it was for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie— a few weeks removed from a rousing keynote at the Republican National Convention— to be back on a national stage, this time praising Barack Obama’s swift response to Sandy just days before the election.

That underscores the genuine, apolitical cooperation that has built, rebuilt and will be needed again to rebuild this country.

Destruction, however tragic, drives reconstruction. And many economic pundits were suggesting within hours of Sandy’s strike that public works projects will become so significant that they could help boost the nation’s GDP as thousands of contractors stalled by the housing market collapse dust off their tools.

Economic Lift

Frank Holmes, CEO of U.S. Global Investors, speculated a day after Sandy struck that damages of $20 billion (later estimates approached $50 billion) could trigger a $100 billion economic lift from related spending.

That, at this early stage, must seem like a hollow consolation to retailers slammed shut by Sandy. Some observers estimated such retailers collectively would take a $25 billion hit in sales during the week following the storm. Burt Flickinger III of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group revised his November/December retail sales growth forecast from 3.2% to 2.1%. 

Independent merchants cut off by Sandy face a particularly difficult recovery— if they recover at all. Still, retailing overall, after the near-term blow, figures to be an instrumental contributor to and benefactor from the post-Sandy recovery as victims restock their homes and lives.

Grateful Return

Home improvement and housewares retailers are well equipped to help restore battered communities in some of the nation’s most populous regions. 

If you need any further convincing about how essential the products provided by this industry can be to people during their most difficult times, consider this: A HomeWorld Business associate said he was grateful to return to a fully functioning office two days after Sandy left him in the dark in part because he could prepare and savor a fresh pot of coffee.

It is hardly selfish to seek relief wherever one can from havoc and uncertainty. The housewares business is in a strong position to help ease the devastation of Sandy and participate in a reconstruction that could help lift the long-term economic prospects of an entire country in the process.

It’s never too soon to pursue silver linings.