Stories from the Storms

kroger asset protection

Kroger Store 950 sits slightly raised in small-town Texas “thirty miles northeast of Beaumont as the crow flies,” according to Eric Bumbaugh, Houston division asset protection manager.

As Harvey blew through—dropping rain in amounts unlike Bumbaugh has ever seen during his 32 years in South Texas—950 turned into an island. Inside was a lone assistant store manager who had evacuated to the store after flooding cut her off from her home. She hunkered down inside until help from LP arrived in the form of specialized contract security arriving by boat. “With two of my asset protection specialists and two armed guards, they all stayed in that store,” Bumbaugh recounted. “And they opened and operated it.”

Eric Bumbaugh

Although limited until very high trucks and eighteen-wheelers could get to it, the store safely served the surrounding area, which was hit hard by the storm and in desperate need. “It was the only grocery store that could check people out in a forty-mile radius,” said Bumbaugh. “And we were able to sell all product except refrigerated items.”

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Store 950 operated without significant incident, as did Kroger stores throughout the region, despite some opening with as few as four employees, limited help available from law enforcement, and plenty of anxious customers. “In some locations we had a line 800-deep outside the store,” Bumbaugh said.

To manage those crowds, the stores used a three-in, three-out procedure and relied on supplemental contract security that corporate LP had scrambled to dispatch. “The ability to over-staff the division with outside security help was a huge thing—within forty-eight hours we had every store covered, including armed guards in the most critical stores,” explained Bumbaugh.

But getting its Houston division the help it needed was no simple thing. When Harvey intensified and Kroger was forced to temporarily close 108 stores in the region, Bumbaugh called the general office in Cincinnati for assistance. Property was at risk, and getting stores open was going to be a challenge.

Christopher Ochs

“They had no security guard coverage because the local contract guards couldn’t get to the stores. It was going to require navigating a way in from outside to make it to the locations,” explained Christopher Ochs, LPC, who acted as the corporate liaison to the division AP team. “So the issue for us at corporate was how do we coordinate the resources we need, and how can we get them to Eric to assist him with managing the crisis on the ground?”

With personnel from its local security contractor U.S. Security Associates also impacted by the storm, and some of them unavailable, the corporate team reached out to other security contractors—Securitas, Central Defense Security, and Phoenix Protective Corporation—with which Kroger had some form of existing arrangement. “We went to each of them and asked, ‘What do you guys have? What can you contribute?’”

Making several inquiries proved vital as only Phoenix could provide the immediate, high-security assistance that Kroger was after. “They responded in five hours with armed and armored guard certified personnel, which we deployed across the stores as we needed them and could distribute them,” said Ochs.

Back in the storm zone, the assistance proved crucial. “We had a couple of incidents in which people outside threatened to break in, but we were able to manage that very well,” said Bumbaugh. “Our ability to control the grocery store box was a huge thing—to maintain order, eliminate shoplifters, and to calm arguments that could have potentially led to very serious incidents. In a situation like that, there is the real possibility of quickly losing control of your building.”

During the crisis period, Kroger experienced only four serious incidents in the entire Houston area—and even in those no one was injured, according to Bumbaugh. “Since we had the security, the bad guys were elsewhere,” he said.

It was, not surprisingly, “an absolutely astronomical expense,” according to Ochs. “But it was necessary, and we offset our potential losses by doing so.” And it took almost no convincing of management, he added. “They were on board immediately and saw that it was a time for decisive and heroic action—and that can cost money.”

The teamwork, resilience, and commitment displayed by the Kroger AP team were replicated at retailers throughout Texas and Florida as Harvey and Irma tested preparedness in rapid succession. LP helped retailers succeed in many areas besides security. They assisted in the pre-storm phase, physically securing properties, assisting with closing procedures, cash handling, and door control. They helped affected employees afterwards, at their homes with after-storm clean up and home repair. They supported field operators during the crisis, keeping store shelves stocked. And they administered disaster displacement assistance to store associates and the community throughout, coordinating housing and bringing in and distributing water, groceries, diapers, school supplies, and other essentials.

Some of the victories and lessons learned are detailed below thanks to the generosity of the many LP leaders who openly shared their storm experiences in order to help their peers prepare for next time. Because even though Harvey and Irma were both described as “one-in-a-lifetime” events, next time—as Hurricane Maria proved when it devastated Puerto Rico two weeks later—could be right around the corner.

Spreading the Word

LP practitioners universally cited the importance of crisis communications in their responses to Harvey and Irma, including the value of starting them early. Crisis team leaders at LifeWay Christian Stores began communicating ten days before landfall and held a conference call with field leaders seventy-two hours prior to plan, for example.

Bill Heine

Bill Heine, chief security officer at Brinker International, which owns the Chili’s restaurant chain among others, said it was mindful to communicate pre-storm with employees. “We started talking early on to employees—setting expectations, giving them some advanced notice of when we might close, how they can communicate with us, and how we would communicate with them.” That included establishing a toll-free number that employees could call to get information, creating internal online communication tools, and communicating with workers over social media, according to Heine.

The massive personal toll exacted by recent storms was reflected in the number of retail employees that took advantage of those avenues of communication. Walmart’s Associate Support Call Center fielded nearly 10,000 calls from impacted associates, for example.

Several other retailers mentioned the importance of talking early on to vendors, insurance carriers, alarm monitoring centers, and general contractors. “It’s important to secure relationships so that help is just a phone call away,” advised Byron J. Smith, CFI, LPC, corporate asset protection manager at 7-Eleven.

Byron Smith

In order to support communities and stores, early communications with franchisees and merchandising was a top priority for 7-Eleven’s business continuity team, which falls under the asset protection department that Smith runs. “It’s important to us because we like to be the last business to close and first to open,” said Smith. “We engage the franchisees in our corporate communications early on. We have two to three conference calls a day, and the franchisees are invited to join in one of them, so they can tell us what they need, share their concerns, and provide us with information on how we can support them.”

Because of mandatory evacuations, 7-Eleven closed 750 stores as Irma approached. “For those franchisees, we take care of them. We board it up; we sandbag it; we make sure the store is well protected.”

In addition to starting talks when storms first appear on the radar, many LP leaders stressed the value of frequency in crisis communications. During the active event phase, retail crisis response teams typically held twice-a-day meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Some retailers’ emergency teams had calls three times a day.

At Kroger, a frequent focus of calls during Harvey was logistics—getting the right stores staffed with the right number of people. “There was a lot of shifting things around as the impact of the weather system spread and new needs arose,” said Ochs. He added that the frequent meetings are valuable for another reason—because mistakes and speculation tend to fill a communication void. “You need a consistent communication cadence to ensure you minimize rumors,” he said.

Ochs said he also learned the importance of a communication plan that establishes and maintains control of messaging. While open lines of communication are critical, clear lines of authority must accompany communication, he advised. “You need a narrowing of the field to limit decision-making and to centralize into a command center or a decision tree,” he said. “It’s simply too easy for wires to get crossed, which can end up reallocating to stores that don’t need it. You also need to ensure that messages aren’t mixed, which can happen when you don’t have a single line of communication.”

Joe Matthews

Joe Matthews, vice president of loss prevention at Academy Sports + Outdoors, also cited the importance of clarity when asked which aspect of disaster planning proved most valuable during Harvey and Irma. “I would have to say it’s having defined roles and responsibilities for the team so that there is no confusion and, on top of that, the collaboration and coordination between the players because there were so many things happening.” In addition to “early” and “often,” communication and crisis calls need to involve the right people, according to Cynthia Grizzle, Macy’s AP regional vice president for the South Region. “Our emergency operating committee process is a huge benefit—having representation from logistics and HR and media relations—where everyone is represented and brainstorming together,” she said. “It made addressing challenges easier because we could easily access whatever we needed from an expert in that area for any aspect of the crisis.”

Getting In

Although LP’s role in crisis management varied greatly by retailer, quickly getting into storm zones to assess damage was a common responsibility. For example, post-Irma, Walmart asset protection and operations managers conducted over 330 detailed damage assessments that included reviews of building structure, utility services, HVAC/refrigeration, plumbing, roofing, landscaping, and parking lots.

Brinker’s Bill Heine said their timely response was aided by advanced positioning of business continuity teams—comprised of security, facilities, HR, risk management, and operations—to the periphery of the anticipated impact zones. “You’ve got to physically get in there to see what the damage there is, where there is and isn’t power, and whether or not you can get the doors open,” said Heine.

Getting outside teams in is critical because disasters turn local employees into victims, he noted. “We’ve got a business to run, and our employees are about to be victims. So we want to get people into the market ahead of the storm so that we can worry about the business, and they can worry about keeping themselves safe and dealing with the impact of the storm on a personal level,” Heine said.

7-Eleven approached response in a similar fashion. The company had crisis response teams in southern Texas and, as Irma approached, loaded them up in RVs and sent them over to Florida to be in a position to quickly help franchisees there. Once they were allowed in, each team inspected roughly fifteen stores per day. “We were ready with boots on the ground,” said Smith. “We helped them clean up, prepare for customers, get merchandise on the shelves, and get ready to open.”

Needs that arose at some 7-Eleven stores provide an illustration of the value of staging personnel nearby. With fuel supplies low, anxiety high, and pump designs that allowed customers to pull in from either direction, the potential for havoc was high, according to Smith. But with AP teams already in the field, they were able to provide stores with the traffic control support they needed. “AP was engaged with that to make sure that everyone waited in line for their turn at the pump and made things proceed orderly and without incident.”

It’s also helpful to plan for response to not go as planned, suggested Macy’s Grizzle. In preparing for Harvey, her team was most focused on identifying who from its team would respond to which stores to do the initial damage assessment alongside a facilities expert. “We saw the importance of having a lot of backup plans because so many areas had major highways cut off by flooding,” she said. “In many cases, the person we had originally planned to do a damage assessment at a particular store was not going to be able to get there.”

To facilitate property inspections, it can help to have a remote view into the storm zone as it happens, according to Smith. 7-Eleven partners with Click-It for live remote viewing of stores’ exterior cameras, and where that capability is not in place, the corporate crisis team can at least ping the store to see if it still has power. Connectivity was surprisingly robust, according to Smith. Even as stores in Florida had the eye of the storm pass directly overhead, the crisis team was able to watch the scene unfold on monitors in its crisis room. “It’s beneficial. As an example, we were monitoring some stores that we couldn’t board up because of the sheer volume of stores, and a few were hit by vandals—and we were able to quickly notify local police.” More generally, remote viewing capabilities allows its operation teams to know what’s going on, what to expect when they go back in, and to make preparations for getting stores back up and running,” said Smith.

Lessons Learned

Bolster supplier relationships and investigate alternative providers. For Kroger, it was the need to find alternative security personnel. For 7-Eleven, following Harvey, it was ice. “Some stores had trouble getting ice because there was no refrigeration. We had to find a vendor in San Antonio where we could buy ice and then truck it in,” explained Smith. Identifying alternate sources is important in the event stores need to quickly source product, he said, adding that Harvey reiterated for 7-Eleven the importance of including merchandising partners and outside vendors in its crisis communications and on crisis calls, as well as relationship building when the sun is shining. “It’s a reminder of the importance of those visits throughout the week when they’re dropping off soda and chips, and for making sure they’re engaged and that their business continuity plan is robust enough that they will be able to support you when the time comes,” said Smith. “I have spent time looking at their plans to make sure they have viable plans in place.”

Good relationships with authorities can pay off. As noted, 7-Eleven asset protection staff helped to control crowds at store gas pumps, but they also got an assist from law enforcement. “In many cases, we solicited and got the support of police departments to help,” said Smith. Other retailers noted that a good foundation with law enforcement helped them to skirt curfews and closures, so they could move goods around hard-hit areas. To the same end, Macy’s Grizzle said they leveraged help from exterior partners such as the Florida Retail Federation, which was able to support retailers via a direct liaison to the governor’s office.

Consider if your systems can provide value beyond the day to day. If there is a power-supply issue on a normal day at a Kroger store, employees are there to notice and address it. So there is no need for its central alarm control company to take immediate action if a fire panel were to send a trouble signal for no power. But with stores closed and empty during Harvey, that intelligence was suddenly vital to have. Its emergency procedures called for the notification of select crisis personnel in such an event, which allowed it to divert generators to stores that had lost power and notify utility providers of the outage to get back online. Changing that procedure allowed for notification of power loss it wouldn’t have otherwise had, enabling more stores to open more quickly and preventing product from being lost—by trucking in dry ice to affected stores and moving product into freezers. “It worked fantastically well,” said Bumbaugh. “We estimate we saved more than $100,000 because of it.”

Fully leverage your personnel resources. At Kroger, division asset protection managers handle crisis events with assistance from the corporate AP team. Chris Ochs served as the corporate team’s point of contact during Harvey, but the duties technically fell outside of his new position as a corporate reclamation manager, which deals more on the merchandising side of the retail equation. However, because Ochs, a former division AP manager, has significant experience in crisis management, the corporate AP team took advantage of it. “I used to be in Seattle where we have riots every May,” Ochs joked. “So I have the right skill set and a lot of practice managing crisis events.”

Exploit personal connections to yield quicker response. When Kroger called on security contractors to dispatch personnel to help them in Houston, the fastest response came from Phoenix Protective Corporation out of Washington state, with which Ochs had worked closely during his time in Seattle. That the fastest response came from a company so far away suggests how critical personal relationships can be. It’s easy to think that the close relationship that Ochs had with Phoenix back in Seattle was part of the reason, with so many security demands being placed across the region, that Phoenix was quick to respond.

Command centers are helpful to facilitate corporate assistance. 7-Eleven goes live with a crisis command center, which it dubs its “situation room,” when a storm is seven days from landfall near operating locations, explained Smith. The room, at its corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas, physically brings together crisis team members, which is made up of representative members from all departments, such as fuel, logistics, facilities, and so on. “It’s a situation room designed and set up for that purpose—to provide as much support to our stores as possible,” said Smith. Among the features are large monitors that allow them to follow coverage of unfolding events and share storm-tracking data among the crisis team.

Software tools provide a useful advanced alerting to assets at risk. 7-Eleven’s business continuity team tracks storms using RiskPulse, which allows it to graphically see store assets and the potential impact of an event on those assets. “It has been very useful. It layers our assets on top of all the different storm prediction models and provides a status of green, yellow, and red to indicate the possible risk to those assets,” explained Smith. Brinker’s Bill Heine feels similarly toward his team’s capability of pinpointing every restaurant in a map view to identify which stores are in the path of the storm and to couple that with specific forecasts for each restaurant location.

More extensive alarming of stores could help mitigate loss from looting. Kroger experienced looting at a few stores during Harvey, and looters hit a couple of stores a few times before the AP team could access the sites. But in a bit of luck, the grocery chain was testing new alarm system schematics at several stores that went well beyond the normal alarming that the grocery store employs. “At those stores, we deterred several looting attempts as they triggered the new alarms and then went away,” said Ochs.

Draw a big enough circle around the “impact zone.” Although flooding during Harvey was limited to Houston and surrounding coastal areas, Heine said they felt the ramifications in Dallas. “We had issues that impacted our restaurants in Dallas from the sheer volume of evacuees fleeing the coast and coming to Dallas.” In Florida, too, its restaurants throughout the state felt side effects from Irma. It’s important to consider the cascading effects from crisis events, Heine advised.

Do you have procedures and plans in case the very worst happens? Two Kroger stores were physically damaged beyond repair. “Complete write-offs,” said Bumbaugh. That required significant work for which they had no security protocols and, because no one had been through such a thing, no institutional memory. Challenges included what to do with wet money that armored carriers and banks wouldn’t take and disposing of prescription drugs in accordance with strict federal regulations, which required them to stash and protect drugs under armed guard for several weeks. “It’s something that we had never thought of, but we now have developed [standard operating procedures] for cash remediation and on managing pharmacy drugs.”

Next Time

After-action or lessons-learned debrief sessions are a critical part of disaster response to ensure that corrective actions are taken and deficiencies are identified. Retailers and LP shined during Harvey and Irma, and they also identified some possibilities for improvement.

As noted, 7-Eleven experienced a mad rush for gas as a nervous public was constantly topping off gas tanks. It’s now looking to expand its reserves during hurricane season. “So we have a little larger capacity,” said Smith. “That’s an investment we’re willing to make.”

The company will also be investigating power solutions as a few stores remained closed due to power issues several weeks after Irma. “You look at Puerto Rico, where the entire infrastructure remained down, and we need to prepare ourselves for something like that, be it containerized power generators or something else—to support store operations and to have a capacity to run the registers.”

Kroger successfully met its security challenge during Harvey, but Ochs thinks that with a storm predicted to be of a similar magnitude the company would likely want to dispatch extra guards to the area a few days in advance. They will also be seeing what improvement they can make to its logistics plan, he said. “At one point, the number of trucks at the distribution center created a backup.” The fallout from Harvey also made clear the importance of being able to effectively guide trucks around a city—“one of the many things we would assume we could rely on law enforcement for, but which we had to step in and provide for ourselves since law enforcement was rightfully concentrating on search and rescue efforts,” Ochs said.

Macy’s Grizzle said that Irma—and then Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico—exposed their reliance on cell phones during emergencies. “I think for hurricane-prone areas or regions prone to that sort of disruption, it showed the importance of having a stock of working satellite phones to use in an emergency,” she said. “It may be something that you don’t need for a decade, but in that tenth year you’d want it.”

The Big Takeaway

Most importantly, a good business continuity and emergency response plan needs the ability to flex, according to leaders LP Magazine interviewed. Harvey and Irma themselves exemplified the need for flexibility. “They were two entirely different disasters,” said Heine. “From an employee impact event, Harvey was much bigger, and from a business interruption perspective, because of the power loss, Irma was much bigger.” Hurricanes both but with very different consequences—in one, retailers had power and no employees; the other, employees and no power.

The lesson? “You can’t just have a disaster plan because you won’t be able to administer to all disasters in an orderly way,” advised Ochs. “You also need to have a reaction menu that you can accelerate to as things start to go out of control.”

Heine echoed the point. “There are 100 little things in every event that you learn because no two of these events are ever the same,” he said. “There is not a cookie cutter plan you can use for response. You have to let the way the disaster unfolds dictate your response.”

For Heine, quick deployment of staff to impact zones is central to an effective, flexible crisis response. “Watching the event unfold on television is one thing, but nothing replaces getting boots on the ground so that you can understand the actual impact on the business—and to use that information to tell you how you should respond.”

Academy’s Joe Matthews cited leadership as a foundation for flexibility. “I’ve had the pleasure of being at Academy Sports for twenty-three years, and in that time, I have seen a lot of different types of disasters, and no two are the same. So you have to have a team that can be fluid in its response, to expect the unexpected, and to clearly identify the key stakeholders who will be able to make the decisions about protection and assets.”

Experts in business continuity suggest that flexibility is easier when preparedness activities flow from a company’s strategic goals, as opposed to a bottom-up approach in which an inventory of assets serves as the foundation for business recovery. Instead of looking inward, look outward during planning—at your customers and the market—and then look back at how you service them, suggests John Stagl, director of business continuity at Belfor USA, a provider of property recovery services.

Hurricane Harvey was a good example of why business continuity plans must focus on flexibility. While “getting up and running” is typically the goal of disaster recovery, getting up and running immediately after Harvey was a moot point for some because there were no customers around to service. In this case, returning to operation didn’t equal a return of revenue and instead could hurt a company’s ability to mitigate its losses through insurance payments. True business continuity is about achieving corporate goals, which may change given market factors and the nature of the disaster. In this way, “the planning is actually more important than the plan itself,” said Stagl. “It’s about getting people thinking about what is truly important and creating a framework for servicing it.”

Finally, while all disasters are different—which makes flexibility key to managing them—there does seem to be one constant, one thing that retailers can truly rely on: the reaction of its people to a major crisis. “The most memorable thing to me is the way that all of our teams and the AP team came together to help each other out, whether it was to help impacted associates or associates volunteering to work in donation centers,” said Macy’s Grizzle, expressing a sentiment common among LP leaders. “In all three storms, as soon as we said we needed help, people immediately raised their hands to do whatever it takes. To see their willingness and eagerness to help their communities and company and coworkers—it was pretty awesome.”

SIDEBAR: Retail to the Rescue

“It was like a scene out of [TV’s] MASH,” said Joe Matthews, vice president of loss prevention at Academy Sports + Outdoors.

For ten days following Harvey’s deluge, the retailer’s corporate campus in Katy, Texas, served as a staging ground for rescue and relief efforts. One hundred high-water vehicles came and went. Hundreds of trucks and trailers were loaded up with federal relief supplies. Transport helicopters took off and landed. Fifty ambulances served a mobile surgical unit. And hundreds of active-duty troops worked alongside dozens of federal and state first responders, law enforcement, and fire department personnel. So on the nose was the description of the scene that “MASH” was adopted as the nickname for the retailer’s daily emergency briefings.

When Harvey threw the response community a curveball, transforming the Houston area into the impact zone, “We saw the areas that law enforcement was setting up to stage rescue efforts, and we realized that we could help,” said Matthews. “We invited them here to our corporate office to support and help take care of them, so they could perform their rescue missions.”

Academy’s West Houston campus was dry but also in the thick of it. Five miles in any direction were areas severely impacted by the storm, making it an ideal spot for responders to bed down, eat, and plan to embark on lifesaving missions. The location and layout were tailor-made to offer support, said Matthews. “We had the concrete ground that was needed for relief trucks, our parking garage could act as a helicopter pad, and the fourth floor of our corporate office was partially empty,” adding to the office space and housing it could offer. In all, the retailer’s headquarters served as the temporary home for more than 1,100 rescue-team members and active Army personnel.

And its assistance wasn’t limited to sharing space with emergency responders. The sporting goods retailer also provided rescuers access to closed stores throughout the affected area, so they could grab boats, life preservers, sleeping bags, backpacks, and other critical rescue supplies.

Academy’s helping hand is a good example of the expanded role that retail played in facilitating crisis response to Harvey and Irma, but it’s hardly the only one. In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, Walmart mobilized truckloads of water, groceries, consumable goods, and pharmacy supplies to various communities, including to the mega shelter at Academy Sports + Outdoors’ headquarters. Employees at LifeWay Christian Stores helped with sandbagging, serving in shelters, and collecting supplies to help victims as the water receded. Retailers of all stripes played an active role in mitigating the human misery caused by the recent storms.

Brinker International, which owns the Chili’s restaurant chain among others, gladly accepted the role it could play as a food provider. “In every event, we accept an obligation to employees, the community, and first responders,” said Bill Heine, chief security officer. His team, which is responsible for all business continuity and crisis management, had pre‑storm conversations with vendors in order to stock restaurants with groceries. “We wanted to be there to feed employees and families. Prior to reopening, if we had groceries, we were there to feed employees and first responders in both Florida and Texas.”

A New Role for Retail?

It perhaps started with Hurricane Katrina. The dramatic failure in government’s response to that crisis demonstrated—in the way that only tragedy can—that organizations can’t rely on community emergency response to protect their people, property, or interests. That storm also put retailers’ unique logisitics expertise on full display and seemed to raise the bar of expectation for the role that they could play in disaster relief efforts.

So fast-forward to Harvey and Irma, and it’s perhaps no surprise to find retailers at the heart of community relief efforts. While organizations like the Red Cross faced sharp criticism for their response—one Houston councilman called the charity “inept, unorganized”—retailers garnered praise for providing unprecedented direct assistance to the recent relief efforts.

And then, of course, there’s the money. Retailers were quick to pledge millions to recovery efforts in the wake of Harvey and Irma in direct donations, by matching or doubling customer donations, and in directly distributed supplies or via other relief organizations. Shortly after Harvey hit, when initial estimates were that the retail sector would lose $1 billion in short-term sales from the storm, retailers had already pledged more than $150 million to hurricane relief. Walmart alone committed more than $37 million for the 2017 hurricane relief efforts.

While no amount of business continuity planning can offset losses from natural disasters on the scale of recent hurricanes, some retailers clearly experienced a public relations silver lining from their emergency response activities. These retailers were recipients of positive brand reinforcement that will likely persist long after affected areas return to normal. Although it’s not possible to put a price tag on goodwill, there is clearly a bottom line benefit to headlines such as “The Home Depot Helps Texans Affected by Hurricane Harvey“ and “Gallery Furniture Turns Stores into Shelters for Harvey Victims.”

In evaluating the costs versus benefits of emergency preparedness spending, most retailers will consider factors such as sales lost due to store closure. However, media coverage shows how retailers’ quick response and helpful community involvement can be an invaluable source of positive—and free—advertising. Surveys have shown that 88 percent of the public holds a more favorable impression of companies that provide aid during and after a major natural disaster.

Still, it’s clear that the real motivation of retailers comes from a profound sense of responsibility to assist the communities they serve—that and a realization of exactly how much they can help. As store emergency and logistics programs have matured, retailers are now more capable of supplying assistance than ever before, allowing action to match the desire to get communities back on their feet.

Although Harvey was an incalculable disaster by all measures, it was also a “rewarding experience” for Academy’s Joe Matthews. “It was amazing to watch and be a part of,” he said. “Especially when our team came back to work and to watch them work cohesively alongside the first-responder community.”

As has become commonplace among retailers when disasters hit, Academy Sports + Outdoors willingly accepted a role in the response and relief effort that went well beyond merely getting store doors open. “As a company we saw a real and immediate need, and our leadership was fully committed to doing whatever needed to be done to take care of people,” said Matthews. “We’re just grateful to have been in the right place at the right time to help.”

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