MN Cos. Affected by Sandy Begin Reopening Stores

Some Minnesota companies that were forced to close their East Coast locations as Hurricane Sandy hit the coast Monday reopened stores on Tuesday; meanwhile, U.S. stock markets remain closed but are expected to reopen Wednesday.

Minnesota companies were forced to close retail locations as Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast on Monday, but by Tuesday they were assessing the situation and reopening stores as quickly as possible.

Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, Inc., which operates grocery stores under a number of different brands in the affected area, closed many of its locations in response to the severe weather. Spokesman Mike Siemienas said that Monday evening, “during the height of the storm,” Supervalu closed all 117 of its Acme stores and all 56 of its Shoppers stores in the region. By late Tuesday morning, all Shoppers locations had been reopened, while about 30 Acme stores remained closed. Meanwhile, about 30 Save-a-Lot locations remained closed Tuesday.

“We’ve been through storms before,” Siemienas said, adding that the company stocked up on nonperishable items like water, bread, and granola bars ahead of the hurricane. The company also dispatched refrigerator trucks and generators to stores to help maintain perishable items in the event of power outages.

Siemienas declined to estimate the financial impact of the storm on Supervalu’s businesses, but he said that the stores were “very busy ahead of the storm.” That added traffic could “balance out” the business lost during store closures, he added.

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation closed about 200 stores on Monday but only about 60 remained closed late Tuesday morning, according to spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

She said that the company sent additional truckloads of critical supplies like flashlights, batteries, and water to stores prior to the storm and saw increased traffic from customers stocking up before it arrived.

Snyder declined to comment on an anticipated financial impact of the storm, saying that the retailer is currently focused on employee safety and assessing the situation so that it can reopen stores as soon as it is safe to do so. The company is also closely monitoring road conditions so that it can quickly restock shelves following the storm.

Target is also assessing what types of relief efforts it might provide to those affected by the storm. In the aftermath of major storms like Katrina, the company provided both financial and in-kind donations, Snyder said.

Like Target, Richfield-based Best Buy Company on Monday closed roughly 200 stores on the East Coast, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). And the company reportedly has customer service agents standing by to help storm victims with technology issues.

The overall economic toll of the storm is expected to exceed $20 billion, according to a Bloomberg report. MPR reported, however, that it might still be too early to gauge the financial impact of the storm on Minnesota companies.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock markets remained closed for a second day on Tuesday. But according to the New York Stock Exchange’s website, equity markets were expected to reopen Wednesday.

Scott Berg, a senior analyst at Minneapolis-based Northland Securities, told Twin Cities Business that the closure of the stock markets is unlikely to have a significant impact on individual Minnesota businesses, unless a specific event, such as a refinancing deal, had been scheduled for a day when markets were closed.

One effect of the closure is that a number of companies from across the country chose to postpone the release of their quarterly earnings reports.

Golden Valley-based Pentair, Ltd.—which recently completed its merger with a division of Switzerland-based Tyco International, Ltd.—is among them. The company said Monday that it would push back its third-quarter earnings report and conference call, which was scheduled to occur Tuesday, to Thursday.

Minnesota companies are still assessing what assistance they will provide in the aftermath of the storm, much as they did earlier this year when Hurricane Isaac hit the southern United States.

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, Inc., said Monday it is taking steps to assist its health plan participants who have been displaced from their homes or whose medical facilities or physicians are inaccessible and helping to provide them with medical care. The company also said displaced individuals will be able to have their prescriptions filled early.

Individuals from Minnesota, meanwhile, are on the ground providing aid. The Minnesota Incident Command System said that an “incident management team” was sent to Massachusetts on Friday. The group sent a second team to Albany, New York, on Sunday, including personnel from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The storm also continues to affect travel in and out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Star Tribune reported that about 100 flights into and out of the airport were cancelled Monday and flights to some destinations might be cancelled through the week.

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