Storm stuns NE stores
Clint Engel -- Furniture Today, November 5, 2012
NEW YORK - Days after a devastating Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the Northeast, furniture retailers in the area were reporting store closing disruptions, some flooding and other potential damage.
Some damage reports were sketchy because retailers still had no access last week to the hardest hit areas, where seawater broke past barriers and homes and businesses were pummeled.
"We've not been able to get back to the island to check on our store," said Bob Huber, co-president of Oskar Huber Furniture & Design, referring to his store in Ship Bottom, N.J., on Long Beach Island north of Atlantic City. Huber's other store, in the Philadelphia area, was still without power as of early Thursday.
"We believe it's the worst case scenario as far as our store goes," Huber said.
He knows the store was taking on water during the storm. The showroom has cameras, and even though the island was evacuated and the store boarded up and sandbagged Sunday, Huber could see the water seeping in before the cameras cut off along with the electricity. If the water rose about six inches from where it was in the last view, furniture would start getting damaged, he said.
The best news is no one was injured, he said, adding, "Everyone was out of there in plenty of time."
Raymour & Flanigan CEO Neil Goldberg said the Liverpool, N.Y.-based Top 100 company's biggest priority has been helping its employees. "We're just trying to make sure all of our people are OK," he said.
As of Wednesday, about 25 stores and four delivery warehouses remained closed, mainly because they were without power. There also was some flooding, he said. Goldberg received reports that some employees on Long Island and along the Jersey shore were in evacuation zones and "are trying to get back to see what's left and what the damage is."
He added, "Our understanding is everybody is safe, but no doubt (suffering) tremendous property loss and impact to their families."
The high-end Apropos Furniture in the New York Design Center on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan was closed without power early in the week, but owner Jordan Greenberg said he wasn't expecting to find any damage.
That's not to say the situation surrounding him wasn't devastating and scary. Greenberg has an aunt living in New York's Rockaway Beach who had to move to the third floor of her house Monday night to avoid flooding and "was fearing for her life," he said.
"Houses around her were burning. It was real end-of-the world type stuff."
All 14 of Crest Furniture's Value City Furniture and Ashley Furniture HomeStores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were affected by the storm and power outages, said CEO Simon Kaplan. As of Wednesday, he wasn't sure yet if any stores were damaged and was most concerned about his Northfield, N.J., HomeStore 10 miles west of Atlantic City, which his team had not been able to reach.
"We'll survive, and we'll get started again," he said. "As long as there's no physical damage to any of the showrooms, we'll be OK."
Furniture retailers were not alone in the dark. According to reports, more than 7.5 million electricity customers were without power early last week in some 15 states and the District of Columbia. The storm related death toll in the United States had climbed to at least 88 by late last week.
With news coverage leading up to the storm, Thomasville Home Furnishings of New Jersey lost sales not only as it came ashore Monday and Tuesday, but also the previous Saturday and Sunday, said Eddie Massood, president of the six-store Fairfield, N.J.-based retailer.
"Traffic was basically nonexistent. Everyone was getting ready for Sandy's arrival, which is understandable," said Massood. "So we've had a rough four days of retail."
He said there was no damage to the stores or harm to employees and that the stores were expected to gradually open by the end of the week. Massood added that the loss of business was "not nearly as difficult as the people who lost homes or have been displaced."
Manchester, Conn.-based Bob's Discount Furniture managed to open about six of its 43 locations Monday but ended up closing them early, said CEO Ted English. Most of the chain had reopened by Tuesday, although about eight remained closed for a second day, with no electricity.
In Laurel, Del., Johnny Janosik CEO Dave Koehler said there was no damage at the main store in Laurel or two other locations in nearby Dover, Del., but the stores were closed for two days during the storm and weekend business suffered. Going forward, he said he thinks consumers will jump into cleaning up or getting back into their homes.
"It disrupts their shopping patterns, and I really don't think that you get that business back," he said.
Patrick Cory of furniture delivery specialist Cory Home Delivery said his area warehouses came through unscathed, including the new 200,000- square-foot distribution center in North Bergen, N.J., despite flooding in the area. The company's offices in Secaucus, N.J., also pulled through.
Cory added that he knows some in the area will be suffering for quite awhile.
"Anybody on the Jersey Shore - Point Pleasant, Seaside, Atlantic City - they got hit hard," he said. "Water broke over barriers, businesses are destroyed. They took the brunt of the storm. The recovery for that area is going to take a long time."
Michael Grossman, owner of Northfield, N.J.-based Kensington Furniture & Mattress, said his store had limited exposure to the storm since it is about eight miles west of Atlantic City.
However, since most roads in the area were closed, deliveries were disrupted and some customers also canceled deliveries in anticipation of the storm, Grossman said.
"People aren't in their homes and there have been sporadic power outages," he said, adding. "Outreach is impossible and people are still reeling from what's going on."
Bograd's Fine Furniture of Riverdale, N.J., also was closed and without power Tuesday, said co-owner Joe Bograd. It was open again by Wednesday, though it will be short lived as the store was set to close for good Saturday, Nov. 3.
"It looks like our last week of selling is going to be a quiet one," he said.