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Hurricane Florence: Industry News & Updates

Promotional products companies are feeling the effects of Florence after the hurricane made landfall overnight Friday. The states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia remain in the storm’s path, according to forecasters, with the potential to bring more than 20 inches of rain to some areas. There are 1,931 ASI-listed suppliers and distributors in current projected major impact areas, many of which have already closed down due to mandatory evacuations throughout the week.

One of those companies is Charleston, SC-based supplier Grey Ghost Bakery (asi/58214). The family-owned, small business has weathered two hurricanes and a major flood over the past three years. “We’re hopeful that Florence won’t cause any greater problems than we experienced with these prior events and that we’ll be back to work on Monday,” said Katherine Frankstone, the firm’s owner.

Fellow Charleston, SC-based supplier Vapor Apparel (asi/93396) has also been closed for most of the week. Because UPS and FedEx stopped shipping services on Monday, Vapor Apparel has been shipping orders out of its facility in Union, SC, about 180 miles away from headquarters. “Our first concern is the safety of our team and their families,” said Christopher Bernat, chief revenue officer at Vapor Apparel. “We’re hopeful that our Charleston operations will be back on line on Monday. Vapor Apparel was started in a South Carolina garage 14 years ago and has grown every year since. Hurricane Florence is not going to change our track record of success.”

Ahead of the storm’s arrival, Prime Line (asi/79530) temporarily suspended its free 24-Hour Rush Service at both of its South Carolina and Connecticut facilities in order to get ahead of production in anticipation of any potential interruption. The supplier will resume taking rush orders on Tuesday, September 18. Additionally, ground shipments originating from Northeast locations requiring transit through Mid-Atlantic states may face delays of unknown length, the company said. “It’s always our goal to provide you with on-time shipping, and while it pains us to have any interruption to our service, our greater concern is for those affected by any potential hardships the hurricane may bring,” said David Fiderer, senior director of marketing at Prime Line, in a message to customers.

There are more than 1,900 ASI-listed firms in the projected path of Hurricane Florence.

Gildan Activewear (asi/56842) also closed its distribution center and offices in Charleston. “The facility itself is likely to not be impacted, but some of our employees would experience difficulties getting back to their homes given the altered transportation patterns and road closures,” Gildan told Bloomberg. The company anticipates the storm won’t affect its three distribution centers in North Carolina and five yarn-spinning facilities in North Carolina and Georgia.

Elsewhere, distributor Brand Fuel (asi/145025) has been getting ready for Florence, too. Headquartered in Morrisville, NC, with offices in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, Brand Fuel instructed employees to add a message to email signatures saying the firm was expecting to stay operational, but that there might be communication and carrier delays because of the storm.

Employees in the Norfolk, VA, office were under mandatory evacuation from government officials, while employees at the North Carolina offices were being instructed by company leaders to be ready to move computer towers to desktops as a precaution against flooding. Employees were also being asked to at least consider shifting orders to suppliers outside the hurricane’s expected impact zone, among other measures. “Once the storm is over, do not attempt to come into the office until you hear from me or a member of management first,” said Brand Fuel General Manager Allison McLain in a communication to employees. “We’ll assess any damage as soon as we can. We want to make absolutely certain the building is safe to enter.”

In the latest updates, the cities of Atlanta and Charlotte, as well as the outskirts of Nashville, were expected to be in Florence’s path. Charlotte-based JournalBooks/Timeplanner Calendars (asi/91340), part of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America’s umbrella, plans to remain open.

“We’re watching the progress of this storm very closely and will do everything possible to support our team members as well as our customers,” said Tim O’Boyle, president of JournalBooks. “A big challenge in a weather event like this is that our carriers will limit pick-ups or be unable to deliver to areas impacted by the storm. When a carrier cannot pick up or deliver, they have their reasons and the situation is beyond our control. We’re working to manage customers’ expectations and we are being proactive in all areas of our business to ensure the least amount of impact on our distributors’ business.”

Fellow Charlotte-based supplier Century Place Apparel (asi/85988) also plans to remain open. “The Charlotte area should start to receive rain Friday afternoon,” said Tim Stiene, vice president of sales. “We’ll be operating under normal business hours unless that changes. We’re verifying with customers’ shipping information if they’re located within the storm’s path.”

Jordy Gamson, president of Atlanta-based distributor The Icebox (asi/229395), said that discussions are being made for allowing staff to work remotely in case the storm heads toward their direction. “We’re not exactly boarding up the buildings and stocking up on bottled water yet,” Gamson said. “I have to say that folks in Atlanta don’t seem too concerned at the moment. The thought is that we’re over 250 miles inland and it won’t be as bad as some of the coastal communities. I think the rainfall and potential flooding are the major concerns we’ll have. I hope we’re not underestimating the impact.”

Duke Energy, the major power supplier for North and South Carolina, said that the storm could knock out power for up to three million customers across the two states and that it could take several weeks to restore electricity. AccuWeather estimates that Florence will cause $50 billion worth of damage.