From Whole Foods To Sex Shops In Times Square: What Hurricane Irene Did To Business In New York City

Times Square Before Hurricane Irene

Photo: Dan Nguyen via Flickr

This nearly-last weekend of summer is usually a big one for New York City’s $31 billion tourism industry. But Hurricane Irene has changed all that. 

Now that nearly 400,000 New Yorkers have been asked to evacuate, and the rest stayed inside as the transportation system ground to a halt, the landscape looks quite different. 

We took a look at what businesses decided to stay open, which ones offered employees car services, and what New Yorkers prioritise before disaster strikes. 

Any store that sold beer, wine or liquor profited (and likely stayed open for a while) this weekend

In fact, in 2004, Walmart found that beer was its #1 pre-hurricane sales item.

NPR reported on this trend yesterday:

Frankly Wines, a small shop just outside the evacuation zone, was doing a pretty brisk business today. Owner Christy Frank lives around the corner. Late August is normally a slow time, she says, but Irene has been great for business.

'We've been calling it the 'hurricane stimulus package,'' Frank said. 'It's definitely been good for business. I have a number of other friends who own wine stores elsewhere in the city, and after yesterday, we were all just beat. It was like the day before Thanksgiving, or New Year's Eve.'

Equinox stayed open until 8 p.m. Saturday (depending upon location) and arranged for its employees to get home via car service

The Brooklyn Heights club was busier than usual at 11 a.m., which is interesting because the gym is located just a few blocks away from a mandatory evacuation zone. We assume anyone who had time to work out had already stocked up on 'D' batteries and beer.

Trader Joe's opened early (6 a.m.) and closed early (10 a.m.)

Around 8 a.m., the Brooklyn location was only moderately busy, and was also fully stocked (it even had several cases of water).

The TriBeCa Whole Foods stayed open all night and closed at 9 a.m. Saturday morning

The Brooklyn Target stayed open until 6 p.m. on Saturday -- one of its employees told us the store was providing a car service for employees to get home safely

At 9 a.m., the store was nearly fully stocked -- save for with 'C' or 'D' batteries -- and surprisingly empty.

On the other hand, retailers like Macy's closed Saturday -- and will suffer after losing back-to-school shoppers

'This is a worst-case scenario,' C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, told the Associated Press. 'This was supposed to be a prime weekend for apparel retailers.'

The MTA is losing its 8 million riders per day this weekend -- and possibly Monday

In December, the MTA lost $30 million from the two-day snowstorm.

This is Times Square 10 minutes before the MTA shut down the subway system at noon

It was moderately filled with tourists, even though most stores were closed.

Broadway canceled all of its shows this weekend -- that's a lot of lost ticket sales

Though next to the theatres, adult entertainment stores stayed open

'There was still adult entertainment on the fringes of Times Square with peep shows and stores offering porn, sex toys and lingerie open for business,' Reuters reported Saturday evening.

After closing for the weekend, Apple plans to re-open its stores Monday

It even closed its Fifth Avenue store, which until now has been open 24/7, 365 days/year.

Source: CNN

According to the company's press release.

Movie theatres across the city closed early Saturday -- affecting the 20% drop in box office sales this weekend

AMC theatre chains are losing out to what's predicted to be one of the 'most dismal box office weekends of the year,' Reuters reports.

Reuters reports that 'along Southampton's main street, boutique shops had boarded-up windows and signs reading: 'Don't be mean, Irene.'

'It comes on a weekend, so it doesn't do that much damage to the economy,' he said from an evacuation centre. 'In the grand scheme of a city with a $65 billion budget it's very difficult to measure -- negligible is probably a good word.'

Business on Monday is TBD -- depends on the MTA and what damage has been done

The smartest retailers prepare for weekends like this months in advance

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