HURRICANE BRINGS PANIC BUYING

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Hurricane Erin produced considerable panic buying in advance of the storm in various areas of Florida and Alabama but little store damage, area retailers told SN last week. Retailers in the Miami area were the first to experience stronger-than-normal sales during the last two days of July, following reports that the hurricane would touch down in that area -- reports that proved

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Hurricane Erin produced considerable panic buying in advance of the storm in various areas of Florida and Alabama but little store damage, area retailers told SN last week. Retailers in the Miami area were the first to experience stronger-than-normal sales during the last two days of July, following reports that the hurricane would touch down in that area -- reports that proved erroneous as the storm veered north and moved across the central part of the state, then gathered steam in the Gulf of Mexico and hit here in the Panhandle and southern Alabama later in the week. According to Ron Dennis, vice president of Albertson's Florida division, the company experienced heavy buying in advance of the storm -- first in the Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach area on Florida's east coast, then in the Melbourne-Daytona Beach area, also in the east, and finally on the west coast in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

"Customers told our clerks they were out shopping early, ahead of the storm, because they wanted to be prepared. After Hurricane Andrew a couple of years ago, they said they weren't taking any chances this time." At Kash n' Karry Food Stores, Tampa, Fla., Raymond Springer, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said, "We were inundated for the 36 hours just prior to the storm, when the so-called panic buying rebalanced our sales for the week." In the process Kash n' Karry "ran out of just about everything," Springer said. Delchamps, Mobile, Ala., felt the brunt of the storm at approximately 23 stores in two areas: at eight stores in the Florida Panhandle, which experienced some roof damage and leakage, and at another 15 locations in and around Mobile, which had to close due to power outages for a maximum of three hours, Richard La Trace, president, said. Heavy buying was evident at Delchamps stores in the Panhandle region and in Mobile prior to the storm, "which we had anticipated, so we shipped supplies to the stores in advance and did not run out," he said. Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., was "reasonably prepared" for the storm, although some stores were forced to close briefly because of other outages, Mickey Clerc, corporate marketing director, told SN. The storm never hit the Miami area, but it did have an effect on Winn-Dixie's business in the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama, Clerc said, with some stores there forced to close briefly because of power outages.