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Storm Blasts East Coast, Tumbles Retail

Retail took a hit when Hurricane Sandy moved up the shoreline of the United States and melded with other weather systems to form a superstorm. The weather not only closed stores but cut off access to e-commerce websites, and conference calls, where it shut down electric grids.

At the peak of the storm, Walmart, for example, reported 294 facility closures including stores, clubs and distribution centers. As of 9 a.m. Central time today, 44 Walmart stores were closed in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Most of the closures resulted from mandatory evacuations, power outages and safety concerns. As of earlier today, Walmart said it had no reports of significant building damage or associate injury related to the storm.

Walgreens store  closures peaked at about 750 during the heart of the storm but dropped to 530 by noon yesterday, the retailer reported, with more locations re-opening by the hour. Walgreens operates about 1,400 stores in the area impacted by Sandy, it asserted. Stores that remained closed were primarily in areas subject to evacuations, power outages and staff transportation difficulties.

For some companies, including at least one retailer, the storm had effects beyond store closures and Internet traffic lulls. On October 29, Office Depot announced that it would postpone its third quarter 2012 earnings announcement and associated conference call scheduled for 9 a.m. EDT yesterday to 9 a.m. November 6 due to the expected severe weather conditions associated with Hurricane Sandy.