Amid storm, a sales surge

Hassett’s California storm checklist in Redwood City.

Here are three lessons learned from the West Coast storms this week: When it rains, it pours. Better safe than sorry. And retail is detail.

In the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley, Eric Hassett of Hassett Ace Hardware came to grips with all three lessons during the state’s headline-grabbing deluge. There were reports of 12 inches falling overnight in some counties -- high winds, widespread power outages and fears of mudslides.

In a state struggling through an intense drought, the term “atmospheric river” was thrown about by meteorologists.

Hassett operates five stores in Northern California, and the operation snapped into action on Wednesday, the day before the brunt of the storm hit. 

“Because it has been so dry for so long, and because there was also a good wind push, there was a lot of concern of flash floods and fears about trees coming down,” Hassett told HCN. “At our stores, we saw upward of 4 inches in a 24-hour span in the North Bay. There were areas that saw up to 9 inches of rain.”

The Northern California storm was slow moving and easy to predict, giving the media a chance to broadcast the event -- extremely effective advertising for Hassett Hardware and other home centers and hardware stores.

Another factor that led to exceptional sales last week was an earlier small storm about a week before the big one. “It was enough to remind people that drains back up,” Hassett said. 

With media saturation , sales on Wednesday were running double a typical Wednesday, he said. Batteries were flying out of the store. Tarps and first aid kits were big sellers.

“It surprised me that people were very proactive,” he said.

Hassett rolled wheelbarrows to the front of the store to serve as make-shift bins, with flashlights and emergency kits. On a big chalkboard, he kept a “Storm list” checklist of emergency items. 

On Friday morning, the storm had passed. What’s next?

“Mops and gutter repair,” he said. “And a lot of people found out that their sump pump doesn’t work anymore.”

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