- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

Retailers in parts of the Gulf Coast damaged by Hurricane Katrina say they can see the desperation of residents by the types of purchases they are making.

“Our experience has taught us there are prestrike and post-strike products,” said Don Harrison, spokesman for Home Depot, the nation’s largest home-improvement retailer.

Before the hurricane hit, customers bought plywood to protect the doors and windows of their houses.

Afterward, their purchases reflected efforts to get them through an emergency.

“That’s generators, gas cans, chain saws, tarps, assorted cleaning supplies ranging from mops to buckets to various solutions,” Mr. Harrison said. “Grills are selling very well, both charcoal and propane. The desire for portable power is probably higher now than we’ve ever seen it.”

For people who must stay outdoors in the muggy bayou area of the Gulf Coast, “insect repellents are selling very well,” he said.

Already, he sees first signs that customers are moving to the next stage of recovery, which means rebuilding their homes and businesses.

Purchases are starting to increase for “power tools, lumber, drywall, nails, hammers,” Mr. Harrison said.

“That’s when you’re interested in getting the hole in the wall or hole in the roof fixed permanently,” he said.

Wal-Mart officials said they also are seeing buying habits that reflect the difficulties brought by Katrina.

“We have seen a variety of needs in those areas impacted, including basic clothes such as underwear and T-shirts, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, pillows and bedding, in addition to food and pet food,” said Karen Burk, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

Other indications of purchasing trends among Gulf Coast residents come from their insurance claims, which are listing damage to homes, offices, warehouses and food spoilage from power outages.

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