Ecommerce Storm Stats: the Impact of Hurricane Sandy
By Ina Steiner
Just before Hurricane Sandy began penetrating East Coasters' consciousness as a serious threat, the National Retail Federation issued a report stating a record 170 million people planned to celebrate Halloween this year - 71.5% of Americans, up from 68.6 percent last year. But the storm, dubbed Frankenstorm because of its timing two days before Halloween, will certainly impact Trick or Treating for some along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as impacting ecommerce and retail sales - rather than doing some early Christmas shopping over the weekend, many were stocking up on food and water, and now, some are left homeless and millions remain without power.
Hurricane Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean and killed again when it reached the United States, and the storm took a fearsome toll on houses and infrastructure, especially in New Jersey and New York.
Google reacted by offering emergency information for searchers entering "Hurricane Sandy" into its search box, including a link to the Google crisis response portal featuring a map with power outages, shelters, weather and more.
Experts weighed in on the impact the devastating storm would have on the economy, and in particular, on retail sales as holiday shopping ramps up. Bloomberg wrote Monday that Hurricane Sandy was threatening to reduce sales of clothing and holiday gifts while benefiting supermarkets and home-improvement stores.
But what about online shopping? Were people who were hunkered down at home because of the storm getting some shopping done? Some media outlets such as Silicon Valley's Glam Media had no problem with the concept of storm shopping - "It's never too stormy to shop online," it blogged, and pulled together a list of "all the ways you can save while bunkering down during Hurricane Sandy."
Retail blogger Racked National blogged "Dealing With Sandy: 15 Sales to Shop While Weathering the Storm."
And, as the LA Times reported, a number of retailers ran storm-related promotions.
But people who'd rather tweet than shop expressed outrage over American Apparel's Hurricane Sandy promotion, which read, "In case you're bored during the storm, 20% off everything for the next 36 hours - offer available: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virgina, Maryland, Rhode Island - Just Enter SANDYSALE at Checkout."
Media picked up the story, and American Apparel got flak - this despite regularly donating overstock and imperfect clothing to victims of natural disasters going back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
EcommerceBytes checked in with marketplaces to see if they noticed an impact on sales from the storm.
Bernard Luthi of Buy.com said it was early, but noted that the East Coast makes up a heavy portion of the buying population.
Palmer Pekarek of Ruby Lane also said it was too soon to say. "We have yet to see an impact from the storm. We did discuss it during our Management Team Call today and we have been in communication with our shops and gave them some suggestions. We are watching the situation closely and will see if sales go up or down, and if shop owners experience any delays, like electrical, shipping, etc." He recommended checking back on Thursday.
Dimitar from eCrater said sales and traffic were at approximately the same level. "It does not seems like the bad storm on the East Coast affected them in any way," he said.
Bill Harding of Bonanza said sales were down around 30% compared to the weekend before - he didn't know how much of that was attributable to the storm, "but it definitely was unusual for us," he said.
Phil Davies of TIAS.com said the marketplace did see an increase in sales during the storm on Monday.
Mike Shannon of Atomic Mall said he did notice a 53% increase in overall site sales on Tuesday as compared to the average for the preceding month. "There does seem to be a disproportionate percentage of orders shipping to Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Very few orders today shipping to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
So will those who shopped online this week receive their items in a timely fashion? That depends on where the buyer and seller are located - MultichannelMerchant posted links to carriers' delivery delay schedules.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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