Hurricane Irma could hit 27% of Wal-Mart stores; retailer and its foundation pledge another $10 million

by Kim Souza ( 1,026 views 

With Hurricane Harvey relief still underway, Hurricane Irma again has Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club stores closing and mobilizing to provide post-storm relief.

The retail giant said Sunday (Sept. 10) it will match customer funding two-to-one with cash and product donations up to $10 million which brings its contributions up to $30 million this year for hurricane relief. This second campaign runs from Sept. 11 through Sept. 16. The retailer said the value of in-kind contributions will be based on Wal-Mart’s cost.

“We know our associates and customers make the difference. And once again, when needed the most, they are stepping up to help in a major way,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Wal-Mart Stores. “This is about neighbors helping neighbors and we will continue to be there for the communities we serve as they recover.”

With devastating storms and flooding hitting the United States, and building on the response to raise funds for Hurricane Harvey, Wal-Mart launched a second campaign involving customers to help the American Red Cross assist with hurricane relief more broadly. For every $1 a customer gives, Wal-Mart will give $2 and the donations will help those impacted by hurricanes in 2017 by providing shelter, food, comfort and emergency assistance, the retailer noted in Sunday blog post.

The Bentonville-based retailer continues to provide relief efforts in Texas and now with Hurricane Irma impacting Florida more energy and funds are needed. Wal-Mart said its first priority is the safety of employees. Wal-Mart has a large stores presence in Florida and neighboring state likely to see devastating wind and inland flooding.

“We are working to quickly reopen our affected stores and club locations in impacted areas to serve communities,” the retailer said.

Wal-Mart has closed more than 350 Florida retail locations at noon Sunday that included Sam’s Clubs. It’s too early to know how this active hurricane season will impact retail earnings this quarter but with 8% of Wal-Mart stores in Florida – and more in other states likely to see Irma damage – there will be an impact.

Oliver Chen, an analyst with Cowen & Company, said Wal-Mart might have hedged that impact by staying open as long as possible as customers rushed into retail ahead of Irma’s impact in Florida, but stores that sustain damage and remain closed will hurt on earnings if the storm packs the punch that’s expected. Chen said Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had a negative 1 cent per-share impact on Wal-Mart’s earnings for that quarter.

Weather analytics firms Planalytics told CNBC on Friday the potential economic impact from lost retail sales in the consumer/retail sector is expected at $1.45 billion.

Of the broad line retailers, Wal-Mart has the most exposure to Hurricane Irma with 27% of its stores in the projected path of the storm. For Target that exposure is 19% of its locations, and 12% at Costco, according to Cowen.

Dr. Joel Myers, founder of global weather firm weather AccuWeather, said Irma’s damage will move well beyond Florida.

“Irma’s lethal potential will not be limited to Florida but will extend far inland. The hurricane will eventually die out in the mountains of Northern Georgia, Tennessee, South and North Carolina and even potentially into Southern Virginia but not before dropping significant rain in some areas and imperiling life with dangerous flash flooding in mountainous areas. People should be aware that 8″ of rain in the mountains can cause dangerous flash flooding and be prepared,” Myers said.

AccuWeather is predicting the cost of Irma will be at least $100 Billion.

“Irma’s damage, when combined with Harvey’s, will likely cause the Federal Reserve to postpone any interest rate increases for the remainder of the year and potentially until March of 2018. The 2017 hurricane season is the costliest hurricane season in U.S. history in terms of money,” Myers added.