MIAMI (FNS) -- Retailers here, and throughout central and south Florida, braced for Hurricane Georges last week after it caused widespread damage in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Florida operators were reporting heavy sales of canned goods and other staples and were stocking up to prepare for an expected peak in demand following the storm.
At least 100 people were dead on the islands and Puerto Rico sustained $1 billion in damage by Thursday, when the storm was over Cuba. As Georges moved toward central and south Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, all 100,000 residents of the Florida Keys were ordered to evacuate.
Pueblo Xtra International, the largest supermarket chain in Puerto Rico, said all but two of its stores were open after Georges swept through. Its office in Pompano Beach, Fla., closed its doors by noon last Thursday.
A Publix Super Markets store in Key West closed at noon on Wednesday last week. At the two-store Fausto's Food Palace in Key West, Marsha Cox, a Fausto's store manager, said her store was "cleaned out" of canned tuna and size D and C batteries, but was stocked with enough bottled water and most food products.
Many south Florida stores ran out of water, tuna, batteries, flashlights and batteries soon after shipments arrived, according to Tom Casserly, vice president of perishables at Associated Grocers of Florida in Miami. However, customers in the "jam-packed" stores were shying away from perishables. Most stores stopped taking perishables deliveries by mid-week, "based on what happened with [Hurricane] Andrew -- some lost power for weeks," Casserly said.
Aldo Alcantara Jr., president of Normandy Supermarket Co. in Miami Beach, said he and other personnel would not leave his two stores during the storm. "Once the power goes off, people start burglarizing the store," he said.
Winn-Dixie Stores operates units in south Florida, including one in Key West, and all stores were operating through mid-week, according to Terry Walsh, marketing director for Winn-Dixie's Miami division.
At the chain's division in Tampa, where the storm was also expected to do damage, 40 truckloads of water were sent to its stores, starting at the south end of the region at Naples. In addition, Winn-Dixie Tampa personnel added supplies of batteries, canned goods, flashlights and other products to their regular store deliveries.