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 parents prepare to send their children back to school.
Chains such as Home Depot Inc
We're selling things like generators almost as soon as they arrive at the stores in the watch areas, said Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes.
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 that 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, or same-store sales, by 1.5 percentage points, Hastings said. About two dozen retailers, including department stores and apparel chains, are due to report their monthly tallies on September 1.
It could hurt retailers like Saks Inc
Hastings expects Home Depot to do well, as it has 35 percent more stores than Lowe's Cos Inc
Hastings and others expected to see brisk business at wholesale clubs that sell bulk packs of batteries and water.
WATER GOING QUICKLY
At a Costco Wholesale Corp
It's usually crazy here no matter what day of the week it is, said manager Rose Ramos. This is a normal day for us.
Some items were selling faster than others as Hurricane Irene set its sights on the largest city in the United States. Costco stacked 24-packs of Poland Spring and Glaceau water bottles by its entrance.
The water is going very quickly, Ramos said. People want to stock up.
Tim Buxton, a missions director at the Times Square Church, stopped in to get supplies for the church's 22 interns. The church has not decided whether to hold services on Sunday, when the storm is expected to reach New York, he said as he pushed a cart filled with four cases of gallon-water jugs, four packs of bottled water, instant soup and granola bars.
Based on Friday's storm track from the National Hurricane Center, 96 BJ's Wholesale Club
(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, Phil Wahba and Ernest Scheyder in New York; Jessica Wohl and Brad Dorfman in Chicago. Writing by Jessica Wohl. Editing by Robert MacMillan.)