The National Hurricane Center predicts that the massive Hurricane Sandy will strike landfall sometime Sunday night or Monday morning somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Because of this impending weather threat, no doubt the leaders of some of the largest U.S. retail chains with headquarters and significant retail locations along the Eastern Seaboard have been on vigilant retail storm tracker duty all weekend.
But no amount of hurricane preparedness could prepare any retail company for the devastating effects that a natural disaster could have just as the 2012 Christmas holiday shopping season is starting to get active.
Any physical damaged retail stores that couldn't fully participate in pre-Christmas sales activities would have a bad effect. Any incapacitation of retail headquarters that would hamper the executive operations of entire retail chains would have a worse effect. Any ongoing challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that would distract retail leaders from the most critical selling season of 2012 could have a disastrous effect.
The (unofficial) retail storm tracker can project which of the largest U.S. retail chains are likely to be effected by Hurricane Sandy, as the National Weather Service projects the U.S. locations where the storm is most likely to make landfall.
If Hurricane Sandy hits in the southernmost point of her projected path in Virginia, then Lumber Liquidators (LL) and Dollar Tree (DLTR) headquarters might be in trouble, considering their geographic proximity to the coast of Virginia. If Sandy travels a little bit north of that, the Jos A. Bank Clothiers headquarters may be threatened. Located in Hampstead, Maryland, the Jos A. Bank headquarters are inland, but still only 30 miles from the coast and well within the reach of hurricane Sandy's 100-mile radius.
Tracking a little farther north, a Hurricane Sandy visit to the Pennsylvania area would threaten the Urban Outfitters (URBN) / Free People / Anthropoligie apparel chains and the Wawa convenience store chain, both of which have their headquarters in the Philadelphia vicinity. If the New Jersey coast is the unlucky place where Hurricane Sandy decides to enter the U.S., the Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Verizon Wireless, and Toys 'R Us headquarters may be in peril.
None of those Hurricane Sandy options are fun for any of those retail companies. But, of course, the place where hurricane Sandy could potentially have the most devastating effect on the U.S. retail industry would be New York.
Not only do New York retail headquarters include retail chains like Aeropostale (ARO), Barnes & Noble (BKS), Foot Locker (FL), and Macy's (M), the island of Manhattan is filled to overflowing with U.S. and global retail flagship stores. Any major damage to New York retail locations or headquarters would be bad for the individual retail company. Any widespread damage to world famous New York shopping districts less than two months before Christmas would be unnaturally disastrous for the entire city.
This is not to imply that a retail hurricane tracker is the most pressing concern as Hurricane Sandy moves on shore in the next 36 hours. Nor does the potential loss of revenue come close in comparison to the potential loss of personal property or human lives.
But when anything threatens the critical time period on the retail sales calendar when major U.S. retail companies will (or won't) be collecting 40% or more of their annual revenue, it is kind of a big deal. At least it's a big deal to those who lead and work for and invest in those companies. And it's kind of a big deal for the U.S. economy too. And then there's the world financial markets...
So it seems that forecasters may be correct when they say Hurricane Sandy looks to be "one for the record books."