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Retailers Accessing The Damage From Hurricane Ike

UPDATE! Beaumont, Texas — Retailers are still assessing the impact of Hurricane Ike, which forced store closures throughout Texas and other markets over the weekend.

Best Buy said 18 of its stores were still closed as of today and eight have limited hours of operation. “We are evaluating the operability of our affected properties and will take immediate steps to re-establish safe and secure operations wherever possible,” the company said.

Conn’s, the Texas-based CE and appliance chain, planned to have 21 of the 28 stores affected by Hurricane Ike up and running by today, while Wal-Mart has only reopened 67 of the 177 stores and facilities impacted by the storm.

Neither Conn’s nor Wal-Mart reported significant damage to its facilities.

Mississippi-based Cowboy Maloney’s, which sustained damage during Hurricane Katrina three years ago, was not affected by Ike. “We’re just glad our friends at Conn’s are already recovering,” said president Edward Maloney. “Unfortunately, they, like us, have had too much practice.”

Both chains also participated in a weekend meeting of their buying group, NATM Buying Corp., which was held in Dallas where the storm’s impact was negligible.

Aside from the affected locations, Conn’s said there was no impact on other store, service or distribution operations as a result of the hurricane. Initial location visits did not indicate any significant damage to headquarters, stores or distribution and service centers.

Conn’s began closing 28 of its 73 stores last week in advance of Ike, as well as service and distribution operations in the affected markets.

The company reopened six stores on Sept. 14 and expects to open the balance today. Any of the affected operations not resumed today will be reopened “as soon as conditions are safe for a return,” the company said.

Conn’s corporate headquarters remained open and operational throughout the storm, although “certain essential personnel” were relocated to a back-up facility in Dallas and a collection center in San Antonio. Beaumont was in Ike’s path.

“The impact of this storm has been more significant than Hurricane Gustav to our customers and operations, and I am very proud of our employees’ response to this disaster,” said Conn’s chairman/CEO Thomas Frank, Sr. “As we did three years ago after Hurricane Rita, we will make every effort to help people in our market areas impacted by Hurricane Ike to provide them the products they need to get their homes back in order and assist them in maintaining their good credit history.”

Wal-Mart said that 80 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations remained closed in Texas as of Sunday afternoon, with an additional 30 facilities closed throughout Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky.

Four more stores in Texas are scheduled to open today, although 79 facilities in total are known to be without power.

Wal-Mart said it has not received any reports of significant damage to any of its facilities, with most of the damage limited to roof damage, leaks or broken skylights.