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Loss Prevention

Tragedy strikes in Joplin and retailers lend a helping hand

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This morning, several of us at the National Retail Federation participated in a call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations to discuss the tragic tornadoes in Joplin, MO. We have all seen the heart-breaking video footage and coverage of the massive storm that hit this small Missouri town two weeks ago. While the stories being told are understandably about the hundreds of lives lost and homes destroyed, it's important to remember that businesses were affected, too. Hundreds of retailers of all sizes experienced a tremendous amount of damage to facilities and store associates' personal lives.

The destruction in Joplin is severe, but there is room for optimism: according to local leaders, 345 of 347 businesses affected by the tornadoes two weeks ago said they plan to rebuild in the Joplin area. City officials and business leaders are actively exploring long-term recovery options including green initiatives and sustainability, a business-to-business mentor program, and coordinating relief agencies to include the business community.

Since the tragedy, retailers - even some with no direct impact - have responded in a huge way. From providing food, water, clothing and shelter to financial aid for long-term assistance, our industry is responding in droves. Among the examples:

Kroger has made providing assistance part of their overall mission at the corporate level and has also made it easier for customers to donate. They have added a banner at the top of all Kroger websites indicating how customers and other partners can help with the recovery efforts through relief organizations. Their Dillons branded stores in Kansas and Missouri are providing food and product donations to local food banks and making it easy for customers to donate right at the register.

Kroger is supporting their associates who live and work in Joplin and surrounding communities through Kroger’s Helping Hands fund, which provides assistance to Kroger associates facing hardships due to an unexpected or emergency situations. And, while Joplin was one of the most recent tragedies, earlier in May the company committed $250,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to assist storm and flood relief efforts in communities across affected areas in the Southeast.

The Home Depot Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Home Depot, announced last week that it will donate $1 million to the immediate relief, recovery and long-term rebuilding efforts in Joplin, Mo.

Sears has been coordinating response efforts through local relief agencies, sending supplies including pumps, tools, mattresses and other specialty items to assist with clean-up and recovery efforts.

It never ceases to amaze me how giving Americans can be during times of grief, and how retailers stand ready to extend a helping hand to their customers – and employees – when they need help the most. I'd love to hear even more examples of companies that have stepped up to assist after the tragic events in Joplin.