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Chains bounce back fast from Rita.

NEW YORK -- Arriving in the catastrophic wake of Hurricane Katrina, the impact of Hurricane Rita was substantially less than feared, and mass market retailers in the region rebounded quickly.

For example, although H.E. Butt Grocery Co. (HEB) closed 66 of its Houston division stores before Rita's arrival on September 23, it was the first major supermarket chain in the area to open more than 38 stores in less than 24 hours. By the end of September 26 the retailer had reopened all but eight of its stores, which continued to be without power.

"Our HEB partners performed herculean efforts to reopen our stores in record speed in order to serve our customers in this time of need," says Scott McClelland, president of HEB's Houston division.

In addition, HEB worked with such organizations as Second Harvest Food Banks and the American Red Cross to support relief efforts throughout east Texas. The company had previously donated truckloads of emergency supplies, drinking water and food to communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina in August.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had 155 facilities shuttered at the peak of Hurricane Rita, but by October 4 only two Supercenters remained closed. The retailer, which won praise for its readiness for and response to Hurricane Katrina, shipped more than 370 truckloads of merchandise, including over 600,000 gallons of water, to communities in East Texas.

Target Corp., meanwhile, had 33 of its stores in the Gulf Region closed by the storm. Most of those affected by Hurricane Rita were able to reopen within 24 hours, however, and by September 26 only four were closed: three in the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, and one in Lake Charles, La.

None of its distribution centers were affected, however, and according to a company spokeswoman, it was able to divert merchandise to areas where evacuees had concentrated. In addition, the company supplemented its initial $1.5 million donation to the American Red Cross with a further $500,000. The retailer was also the primary underwriter of an entertainment fundraiser, "Shelter From the Storm," which raised more than $30 million.

Structural damage from Hurricane Rita was far more modest than the havoc wreaked by Katrina. Walgreen Co., for example, reported only minimal structural damage to its units. The retailer had 27 stores shuttered, but the cause was lack of electrical power. Nearly 80% of its outlets in the impact zone were open the day after the hurricane hit. Out of 208 Houston-area stores that were closed on September 23, 160 were back in business by the following Sunday.

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Publication:MMR
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 17, 2005
Words:428
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