New York — The consumer electronics industry is rallying to support relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
CE vendors and retailers are responding to the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with cash donations to disaster relief agencies, truckloads of supplies and armies of employees to assist humanitarian efforts in the field.
Manufacturers contributing to the cause include Harmon International Industries, JVC Americas, Kodak, LG Electronics USA, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony, Thomson and Yamaha, according to Jeff Joseph, communications and strategic relationships VP for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Among their efforts:
Harmon has launched a payroll deduction program for relief donations, which the company is matching dollar for dollar.
JVC is also collecting and matching donations from employees, which are being directed to the Red Cross’s Katrina relief fund.
Kodak has donated $500,000 to the Red Cross, while individual business units were contributing significant amounts of equipment for use in aerial flyovers and structural assessments.
LG has also established an employee-matching contribution program that’s being directed to the Red Cross.
Matsushita’s Panasonic unit has earmarked $1 million for disaster relief.
Following a preliminary contribution shortly after Katrina struck, Sony Corp. of America and its U.S. operating companies are making an immediate $500,000 cash contribution to the Red Cross. Sony Corp. will also begin a one-time U.S. company matching gift program that is separate and apart from existing programs at its U.S. operating companies.
CEA’s Joseph reported that other vendors who want to help are waiting to see where the most need exists.
CEA itself has made a $10,000 contribution to the American Red Cross, and will send the relief agency two dollars for every dollar donated by employees during a 30-day period. The trade group is also soliciting handheld, battery-powered TVs and radios from member manufacturers for distribution to relief agencies.
Also assisting the Red Cross is XM Satellite Radio, which has launched a 24-hour nationwide channel, Red Cross Radio (XM channel 248), to provide help, information and updates for hurricane victims and for Red Cross staff and volunteers both in the field and across the country.
In addition, Reed Business Information, the parent company of TWICE, has pledged $25,000 to the American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund and is collecting individual donations from employees.
Elsewhere, members of the mobile A/V industry and 12 Volt News, a specialty publication based in Shreveport, La., have established a 12 Volt News Hurricane Katrina Relief Team Fund (www.12volt.com/katrina) to aid colleagues and their families affected by the storm.
As previously reported, Cingular Wireless has also set up free emergency calling stations at its open company-owned stores across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The calling stations are available to anyone who simply needs to use a phone, the company said.
On the retail side, Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Office Depot and Best Buy’s Children’s Foundation each initially pledged up to $1 million toward disaster relief. Best Buy is also offering its employees the resources of the company’s Schulze Family Fund, and Home Depot has mobilized thousands of staffers from across the country to man its Gulf area stores (see TWICE, Sept. 5, p. 1).
State officials have granted Home Depot personnel access to Interstate 10, the region’s main corridor, ahead of the public in order to stock shelves with needed supplies based on three years of hurricane sales data, the company said.
Following its original contribution, Wal-Mart has pledged an additional $1 million and has forwarded some $20 million in cash donations to relief efforts. The company also leveraged its considerable supply chain and logistical capabilities to provide 1,500 truckloads of free staples to Katrina victims and enough food for 100,000 meals, and has guaranteed jobs for all displaced employees.
Similarly, Office Depot has further funneled over $17 million in donations to disaster relief; is providing $13 million in water, batteries, and office and school supplies through its partnership with Feed the Children; has offered New Orleans city officials the entire contents of five stores; is distributing 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area children; and is matching employee contributions to the Office Depot Disaster Relief Foundation.
“Hurricane Katrina is the American tsunami,” said Steve Odland, Office Depot’s chairman and CEO. “We continue to encourage other companies to join us in this massive relief effort — not only to help our fellow citizens, customers and associates who are suffering, but to ensure that our economy can withstand the tremendous impact this storm will have on American business.”
The disaster holds a personal poignancy for Crescent City native John Mancina, the New Orleans rep for CE rep group and distributor Sunbelt Associates. Mancina, who managed to work his way back into the city to witness the devastation first hand, is organizing his own rescue initiative out of Baton Rouge, La., using friends’ trucks and students from the shuttered Louisiana State University campus. The effort, The Consumer Electronics Katrina Relief Fund, is supported by the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA), and has received over $25,000 in pledges as of Sept. 7. Donations can be directed to his assistant Lisa Weadock, who can be reached during business hours at (972) 490-3240 or evenings at (469) 855-1772; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail c/o Sunbelt Associates, 3361 Boyinton, #200, Carrolton, TX 75006. “I got 25 years vested in our consumer electronics industry,” Mancina wrote. “I need to lean on it.”
Sunbelt also reports that in addition to a cash donation, Custom Sounds of Austin, Texas shipped 1.5 tons of food, water, toiletries and baby goods to Pro Tec Audio, which trucked the supplies into affected areas from its headquarters in Lake Charles, La.
Meanwhile, D&H Distributing said it will donate the equivalent of 1 percent of its customers’ total sales on Sept. 12 to the Red Cross. The CE and IT distributor expects its contribution to amount to tens of thousands of dollars, and is encouraging dealers to offer similar rebates, discounts or matching donations in order to boost sales for the day, and to raise additional funds for victims. D&H is also arranging a process for employee donations, and is asking the entire distributor community to support the relief effort through either personal or corporate donations.
Separately, the North American Retail Dealers Association (NARDA) has reached out to retail buying groups and other trade associations with the hope of providing a coordinated support network within the industry. Dealers, consultants and vendors interested in offering non-monetary assistance to affected retailers can contact NARDA president Tom Drake at (630) 953-8990, ext. 612, or by e-mail at email@example.com. — Additional reporting by Amy Gilroy and Steve Smith