Hurricane Irene sent East Coast shoppers into stores to stock up on essentials this week, instead of the clothes, notebooks and other supplies that retailers were counting on selling as children get ready to go back to school.
Chains such as Home Depot Inc (HD.N) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) were doing brisk business on Friday, selling water, flashlights, batteries and other goods in states standing in Irene’s potential track from the Carolinas to Massachusetts.
“Most probably, the biggest demand right now is for generators, obviously,” said Suzanne Roche, manager of a Sears (SHLD.O) store in Wilmington, North Carolina. “We have got customers calling nonstop.”
Irene is due to make its first U.S. landfall in North Carolina on Saturday. The storm, which battered Atlantic and Caribbean islands including the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, is then expected to head to the densely populated Northeast.
Those who were not trying to squeeze in one last summer stay on the New Jersey shore or Long Island beaches may have been planning to go to shopping malls to buy clothes, shoes and other items for children who will soon head back to school. Now those plans will be on hold.
“Nobody is going to go to a mall to buy a pair of jeans,” said Richard Hastings, consumer strategist at Global Hunter Securities.
The back-to-school shopping season is the second-largest spending time for U.S. shoppers, behind the winter holidays.
The storm may dent the upcoming index of August sales at stores open at least a year by 1.5 percentage points, Hastings said.
About two dozen retailers, including department stores and apparel chains, are due to report monthly same-store sales on September 1. Analysts were expecting a 4.8 percent rise for August, Thomson Reuters said on Friday.