Wal-Mart hit hard by Harvey, will donate $1 million to recovery through foundation

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 3,090 views 

Hurricane Harvey has shuttered at least 70 Wal-Mart Stores in the Houston metro, including Sam’s Clubs and three of the retailer’s distribution centers.

Wal-Mart has about 600 stores in Texas and roughly 12% of them in the Houston and surrounding areas are closed, according to the retailer’s blog site. It’s too early to know exactly how store closures will impact Wal-Mart’s overall earnings this quarter. While a large number of stores are closed, when the water recedes many consumers will need supplies for recovery. In the case of flooding, consumers will need to replace apparel, shoes, food and other necessities.

Wal-Mart corporate spokesman Aaron Mullins told Talk Business & Politics the retailer had a team watching this storm well ahead of Friday evening’s landfall in Texas. On the front end of the storm, Wal-Mart began moving supplies to the area before the flooding became widespread.

On Sunday (Aug. 27), Wal-Mart and its foundation said it would commit up to $1 million of cash and product donations toward Hurricane Harvey recovery relief. The retailer said it’s working with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Convoy of Hope while also coordinating efforts with elected officials and government entities to help meet the needs of those affected.

“We are concerned for the people in the path of this potentially devastating storm,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Walmart and president of the Walmart Foundation. “We are actively supporting local response efforts and will continue to be there for our customers, friends, family, fellow associates and neighbors in the Gulf Coast.”

As of Monday morning, Wal-Mart said it had shipped 1,023 emergency truckloads of supplies, 927 of them carrying water to South Texas. Another 1,700 truckloads are expected to arrive in the next week. In an effort to support its Texas employees and customers, the retailer told Talk Business & Politics other items being requested are diapers, hand sanitizer, batteries and cleaning supplies. The retailer said stores have also been resources for the recent rescue efforts in some instances like in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands, where a store gave away kayaks, life jackets and snacks to SWAT rescue teams.

While Wal-Mart was planning its response ahead of Harvey making landfall on Friday night, the retail giant experienced its own challenges with so many of its stores closed, roads impassable and electricity outages. Wal-Mart said it’s in the process of sending mobile pharmacies to Rockport, Portland and Port Aransas. The retailer said it will share exact locations when the makeshift pharmacies are up and running.

“We are at this point communicating with store management, reminding store associates about safety procedures and working to stock the appropriate items most needed. We are keeping close track of the emergency situations in the Houston and surroundings areas, adhering to mandatory evacuation orders and focusing on safe conditions on the ground,” Mullins said.

He said Wal-Mart is committed to help its Texas family of employees and customers over the next few weeks, always putting safety first.

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