What’s the 2014 hurricane outlook got to do with your store?
Assuming that 2013 was a relatively mild year for severe weather, should business owners start shuttering their doors ahead of the 2014 hurricane season?
This, among other questions, were chief concerns during the Planalytics 2014 Hurricane Outlook Webcast on Thursday.
"If there’s one thing you should take away, it’s that a below-normal season doesn’t mean quiet," said Jeff Doran, manager of client services. "It only takes one," he said, referencing historic storms like Hurricane Andrew.
And by all accounts, 2014 is shaping up to be a "below-normal" year, with storms likely to bump up against a windy Gulf Coast or take a familiar recurving trajectory up the East Coast.
The difference between this year and last year’s Memorial Day is already vast — Memorial Day in 2013 was the coolest since 2005, and the one that just passed was the fifth warmest in 50 years — a 10 to 20 degree increase across many of the major U.S. markets. And though it’s been slow to catch on, severe weather is on the increase this season, said Planalytics analysts.
After a 2013 that "felt quiet" by all accounts (due to a lack of strong storms or U.S. landfalls), we are now in unprecedented territory, at over 3,100 days and counting since a Category 3 storm or greater (Sandy, as a reminder, was technically a Category 1 storm by the time it hit the U.S.).
According to Planalytics, the perfect storm could well brew, given the Atlantic Ocean now being in an optimal "warm" phase and the Equatorial Pacific moving toward El Nino conditions.
Lowe’s: Breach was limited to employee data
A Lowe’s spokeswoman told HCN that various blogs covering the story about a Lowe’s data breach inaccurately implied that consumers were affected.
That’s not the case, said Karen Cobb, manager of corporate public relations for the Mooresville, North Carolina-based retail giant.
“This situation affected only documentation of employees approved to drive Lowe’s-owned vehicles and in no way contained any customer data,” she said.
She also broke down the nature of the breach:
She said Lowe’s uses a third-party vendor to maintain compliance information and documentation for employees who are approved to drive company vehicles. An error by the vendor resulted in personal information about some current and former employees made potentially accessible via the Internet.
“We’ve made current and former employees affected by the error aware of the situation,” she said. The company also made arrangements for those affected to receive credit protection services.
The company also stressed that there is no evidence that any of the compromised information was misused.
Winners and losers from earnings season
Overall, the sales data from the publicly traded companies focused on home improvement and building materials shows a trend toward growth. Twenty-one companies showed sales gains over the previous year’s quarter, and nine showed sales declines.
Analysis of the sales data also shows:
The bad: Punishing weather was a common theme across the spectrum, contributing to nine companies’ posting quarterly sales declines.
The ugly: Louisiana-Pacific sales of $445 million declined 16% from the prior-year quarter, the largest percentage decline on the Stock Watch.
Quotable: “The theme for this year’s spring plan was ‘Spring is Calling.’ It didn’t call as early as we initially expected, but when it did, we were well prepared and where id did, we performed well.”
— Mike Jones, Lowe’s chief customer officer.