When retail comes to the rescue
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the worst to date, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastating many communities and leaving their names imprinted in history. But devastation wasn’t the only thing the hurricanes left in their wake. Many communities experienced a surprising outpouring of community support, with neighbors and people from across the country coming together to help those in need.
Americans across the country may not realize the critical role retailers played in rebuilding those communities, but people in the affected areas saw retailers front and center — an essential part of the response, from providing food, water and shelter, to rescuing neighbors and providing financial support.
At the NRF PROTECT conference today, which brings together thousands across the retail loss prevention community for networking and career education, four retailers — The Home Depot, Kroger, Academy Sports + Outdoor and Gallery Furniture — shared more about the work they did in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.
The session facilitated by Deborah Ferguson, anchor of Dallas’s NBC 5 Today, showcased a panel of the executives that led the crisis responses that helped their communities recover: Mike Krell, vice president of operations for the Houston division of The Kroger Company; Joe Matthews, vice president of loss prevention with Academy Sports + Outdoors; Jim "Mack" McIngvale, philanthropist and owner of Gallery Furniture; and B.J. Powers, Gulf Region vice president for The Home Depot.
Each panelist spoke to the importance of crisis planning and emphasizing people first. Powers said ensuring the safety of the 17,000 associates in the Houston area was The Home Depot’s number one priority, many of whom ended up displaced and taking shelter in the company’s stores. Not only did Academy Sports + Outdoor open its doors to shelter hurricane evacuees; its corporate campus became a home base for first responders, housing more than 1,000 law enforcement and Army personnel that rescued victims in the days following the storm.
“Roll call was really important for us, making sure people were safe, and then it was about getting product in to help serve customers,” Krell said. By partnering with other divisions around the region, 800 truckloads from Kroger supplied food and water to the area and the company was able to provide much-needed provisions to the Houston Food Bank to reach thousands of people displaced by the storm. Kroger also collected customer donations for the American Red Cross from check-out registers across all of its stores. The Home Depot committed $1 million for storm relief efforts, and many other corporations made significant contributions to help storm victims.
“I think all four companies up here have the same mantra. Take care of people. Do the right thing. And that’s what you found throughout Houston,” Matthews said.
Not only did McIngvale offer his Gallery Furniture stores to storm victims as shelters, he also went out to pick them up. As the water rose in Houston, McIngvale knew he had to get the word out that Gallery Furniture had large moving trucks capable of evacuating people from flooded areas. He took to Facebook Live to spread the word, and the Gallery Furniture team rescued more than 200 people and sheltered even more in their store locations and showrooms.
As the discussion ended, the panelists voiced the pride they took in being a part of relief efforts and how their companies stepped up to help their communities. “The long-term good of Harvey is that it brought us closer together as a community,” McIngvale said.
“When you saw how folks came together, supported each other, it’s made our team better and challenged our leaders. I’m proud of how we responded professionally and personally to the events,” Krell said.