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For the foreseeable future, the realities of apartment living look a little different than when 2020 started. From new protocols in building operations to changes in residents’ day-to-day routines, life has drastically changed over a span of just weeks. And amidst quarantines and uncertain times, operators are left wondering:
“How can I provide a memorable living experience for my community?”
“how can I quickly respond to the needs of my residents?”
“...and how can I do all this while ensuring my residents feel safe?”
With more than 37% of Americans living in rental apartments, residents are concerned about their health and safety, relying on updates from their property managers. In fact, usage data from Mobile Doorman revealed that resident messages across the country spiked 78% in response to COVID-related health/safety concerns.
In times when information moves at the speed of thumbs, residents expect proactive updates on how you’re keeping them safe. Utilizing technology to break down communication barriers, especially those caused by social distancing, is the first step in providing an enhanced level of service to residents.
Communication only represents half the equation. To be effective, it needs to be timely. In other words, it needs to answer questions on residents’ minds.
Based on Mobile Doorman text analytics on resident messages, Lease Renewals, Rent Payment, Work From Home and Community Support emerged as topics on top of resident minds during COVID-19. You may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which explains the three base building blocks of human needs: Physiological, Safety/Security, and Belonging. See any similarities with these resident questions?
While it’s important to ensure you’re over-communicating with residents, staying ahead of resident questions that are top of mind is even more important in fostering a great living experience during COVID-19.
Virtual Neighborhood Perks
As a way to elevate the resident experience, many communities rely on their neighborhoods as a main draw for living at the property, bolstered by exclusive perks programs providing discounts at local hotspots. But during a quarantine, physical neighborhoods can be rendered obsolete. So what can operators do?
Provide perks virtually.
Data from Mobile Doorman reveals residents are still interested in neighborhood deals. Since the rise of COVID, Food ranked as the top deal category in terms of popularity with residents (40%), followed by Pets (18%) and Fitness (17%).
When walking to local shops is no longer an option, offering discounts on brands that are able to elevate the resident experience virtually can go a long way in providing exceptional service.
While residents and operators are in the middle of this crisis, they are getting help from the broader community—specifically tech companies—at no additional cost.
Popular communication platform Nextdoor recently launched a Help Map for neighbors to offer help. Similarly, Mobile Doorman debuted a new free COVID-19 Communication Tool to help property managers and residents communicate during COVID. And dog walking app Wag! launched a new service providing socially-distanced pet transportation.
Operators are undergoing serious challenges nationwide, but look out for suppliers rising to those challenges with a helping hand.
Property managers and residents are certainly being dealt with an uncertain hand due to COVID-19. But as we’ve learned, providing great service starts with creating a channel between you and your residents to better understand their evolving needs. That way, you can focus your efforts on the things that matter most during these uncertain times.
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Technology has dramatically changed the way people carry out day-to-day tasks and interact at an unprecedented rate. Today, renters expect to be able to shop for a new apartment the same way they shop for groceries on Amazon or select a new show on Netflix. Based on a study by Microsoft, 56% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they had a year prior. If your residents' needs are not met, they will look to live elsewhere, which can result in negative reviews, a decrease in occupancy, and less income for your business. This means adopting the latest technology is critical if you want your property management business to remain competitive.
Disorganized, manual processes can make it difficult for property managers to maintain occupancy and respond to interested prospects in a timely manner. In fact, 40% of renter leads go unanswered, which means 40% of your marketing spend is wasted. This presents a great challenge, but also an opportunity for technology to solve the needs of property managers in new, innovative ways.
Technology solutions have been developed to help property managers respond to leads faster and more efficiently. AppFolio's AI leasing assistant, Lisa, quickly follows up with inquiries around the clock, giving your team more time to focus on providing higher levels of customer service. Evidence has shown that Lisa's quick, 1-1.5 minute response time converts leads to showings 80% better than a typical 30+ minute response. Far from a typical robot, she engages with renters in a thoughtful manner, and takes on the manual, repetitive tasks—like booking showings and cross-selling units—that used to slow property managers down. In addition, she gathers data and analytics on each and every lead, so you can ensure you have 100% accurate lead attribution.
One company that has particularly benefited from AppFolio's AI leasing assistant is Bear Property Management. Since implementing Lisa, they have nearly doubled their amount of leads, achieved a 100% response rate, and seen a 2% boost in occupancy. Before, they were struggling to respond to the influx of leads they received daily. As a result, their leasing agents worked longer hours and were bogged down with administrative tasks. Now their team is able to spend more time in the field and to focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience. Overall, Lisa has completely optimized their leasing process for the better.
Along with fast response time, renters also look for mobile tools, like an online resident portal, when they are choosing a place to live. In a recent survey conducted by AppFolio on resident satisfaction and technology, 75% of renters said they would not rent, or would move out if their property management company did not offer mobile or online tools. In addition, 57.6% said it was important for them to have access to these tools. By giving your prospects the ability to interact with your team via text message or email from the beginning of the leasing flow, you'll make a better first impression and therefore increase the odds that they'll sign a lease.
With the right technology solution, you can solve many of the challenges your property management business faces. AppFolio Property Manager can give you the tools you need to streamline your leasing process, improve your lead conversion, and deliver the on-demand, instant services your residents expect.
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An uncertain global economy dogged by several headwinds, geopolitical disquiet in a variety of hotspots around the globe, and jittery financial markets in 2019 are a combination of factors that have set the stage for the new year. For commercial real estate investment, these trends could prove impactful in 2020, as the longest US economic expansion continues to chug along.
For CoStar’s Advisory Service team, newly joined by the premier hotel data and benchmarking firm STR, our response to widespread uncertainty is to stubbornly dig further into the data, synthesize actionable predictions for the year to come, and provide a solid dose of pragmatism. The following predictions are part of a 31 prediction webinar forecasting the negative, positive, and everything in-between for Multifamily, Office, Retail, Hotel, and Industrial in 2020.
The multifamily sector has held up well amid an ongoing supply wave, with vacancies nationally hovering near cyclical lows. Construction delays, caused by shortages in both labor and materials, have slowed the pace of deliveries, allowing markets to digest the new supply at a more manageable pace over the last couple of years. However, roughly 4.5% of multifamily inventory nationally remains underway today, and many of those projects that were delayed are now on pace to complete in 2020, leading to a rise in supply levels. The impact of deliveries will not be felt equally, as developers continue to favor high-end apartment construction in more expensive submarkets.
The escalation in the share of submarkets with significant vacancy increase projected in 2020 is largely a function of higher levels of supply, as projects that were delayed come on line, rather than weak demand growth. In this case, “significant” is defined as an increase of at least 100 basis points in the submarket’s unstabilized vacancy rate. In fact, many of the submarkets with a more substantial projected increase in vacancy tend to be supply-driven, including Downtown Seattle and Lake Union, and the Woodlands and Heights in Houston. However, a slowing in construction starts nationally could lead to a more modest pipeline in the mid-term, providing a relief valve from the supply pressure in many of these submarkets.
The previously mentioned construction decline stems, in part, from a slowdown in multifamily starts. This decline in starts will ultimately affect completions down the line and the CoStar forecast for supply in 2021 and 2022 reflects this. The usual culprits are to blame, as demand for construction labor outpaces supply. As labor has gotten more expensive, it is harder to justify development. As such, starts have flattened year over year, though we do see a minor uptick today. Nevertheless, we expect that those tight labor conditions will make themselves felt such that 2020 will have fewer 5+ unit housing starts than 2019.
This may allow the labor shortage in construction to ease a bit and could cause a resurgence in starts in a year or two, but for the short-term, we feel confident the scenario we’ve laid out will persist through much of 2020.
For more information about the full 2020 predictions webinar or to learn more about the custom consulting work of CoStar Advisory Services, contact Michael Cohen at [email protected].
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This isn't just the time of year that we eat more than usual, it’s also the time when we have the most household accidents and fires.
To help make sure your holidays don’t go from merry to scary, remember these Twelve Holiday Safety Tips from ESFI and Lowe’s:
- Keep decorations at least three feet away from heat sources—especially those with an open flame, like fireplaces and candles. And remember to blow out your candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- The best decorations are safe decorations, so when you are decorating, make sure not to run cords under rugs or furniture, out of windows, or across walkways and sidewalks.
- If you have a natural Christmas tree, water it to keep it fresh and safe. Real trees can dry up and turn into kindling in no time at all. Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage.
- Always turn off your decorations when you leave your home and when you’re sleeping. Most deadly fires happen while people are asleep.
- Be mindful of how you are using electrical outlets. If you’re using extension cords or adapters that add receptacles, consider having a qualified electrician add more outlets to your home. Extension cords are a common cause of home fires.
- Only use electronics in dry areas. As tempting as it is, you just can’t decorate your aquarium with icicle lights.
- Remember that phones and tablets should stay on your nightstand. We all love falling asleep to the muffled crooning of Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé, but overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.
- Need a perfect gift idea? How about a smoke alarm and CO2 detector? Every home needs a working smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside sleeping areas and on every level, including the basement. And remember to test your own to make sure they’re working. Give the peace of mind to all and know they are protected.
- If you’re using a space heater, switch it off before leaving the room. It only takes seconds for a fire to start if a space heater tips over or encounters something combustible, like a blanket or curtains.
- Inspect your decorations and discard any that are damaged or worn out. It may be time to replace and update. A great excuse to check out Black Friday deals!
- Keep batteries stored safely in their packaging and out of reach of anything that might try to eat them, like small children and pets. Eating a battery can be deadly.
- The best gift for your family is to upgrade to Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter breakers or outlets. It is estimated that half of the electrical fires that occur every year could be prevented by AFCIs. All upgrades should be completed by a qualified electrician.
From the Lowe’s family to you and yours! Have a safe and Happy Holiday!
We’re living in a connected age. In multifamily property management, creating strategic connections can enhance the resident experience and deepen ties with communities and property managers. How? An article in the Harvard Business Review, The Age of Continuous Connection, explains how technology is driving meaningful customer experiences.
“Thanks to new technologies that enable frequent, low-friction, customized digital interactions, companies today are building much deeper ties with customers than ever before,” wrote authors Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch. “Instead of waiting for customers to come to them, firms are addressing customers’ needs the moment they arise — and sometimes even earlier.”
For multifamily operators, that means creating effective digital connections that meet the needs of our prospects while staying true to our brand identity.
Almost 80% of today’s renters visit a property management company or community website during their home search. But if your website doesn’t have the information they’re looking for, they won’t waste their time looking at it. They’ll just move on to the next search result. In the eyes of the customer, your brand is critically important.
Your property website sets customer expectations for an experience that matches. According to a recent PwC survey, customers are willing to pay as much as 16% more for a better customer experience. Adding weight to that, a Walker study found that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Once you’ve got your brand identity, what’s next? Today, a great customer experience begins online. Make sure your website has a modern look and feel with plenty of high-intent calls to action to engage your prospects. These can include like interactive floor plans, nudge marketing messages and self-scheduled tours, anything that helps serious prospects take the next step in the renter journey.
Automating lead management and leasing, including prompt follow-ups by text or email, goes a long way to boost staff productivity and increase customer satisfaction. Call answering automation ensures that you can still connect with valuable prospects when your onsite leasing staff is unavailable. Plus, your residents are served day and night. These are important ways to develop relationships with your customers and make them feel valued.
On-demand and responsive services enabled by popular technologies like Amazon Alexa and Fitbit have changed consumer expectations significantly. Smartphone technology and immediate brand access is the new norm, raising standards for a more personalized experience online.
Did you know that roughly 60% of searches are mobile? And according to recent reports, the average American checks their smartphone almost 50 times per day. For millennials, the number is even higher, at 74 times per day. With half of the renter population under the age of 30, digital technology is a game-changer for apartment communities.
It's time to create an app for your company or communities that puts your brand in the hand of your renters. White label apps increase brand awareness while adding convenience for your customers. Renters can easily, securely and instantly update their profiles, view balances, make online payments, submit maintenance requests and engage with their communities.
Now that your website and app are optimized, your property is ready for an influx of visitors. But how do you drive traffic?
Reach more prospects with a cohesive marketing strategy for your website that includes these five things:
1. SEO: Win more clicks in local search results.
2. PPC: Deliver relevant ad content that gets clicks.
3. Social media: Increase brand awareness and drive engagement.
4. Reputation management: Take control of your digital reputation.
5. ILS listings: Cast a wider net with premium listing exposure.
These are just a few examples of critical connections that are redefining the customer experience in multifamily management. Ready to learn more? Download our ebook, 8 Do’s & Don’ts of Property Marketing Websites, to learn how to set your brand apart and improve your prospect’s experience in an increasingly competitive digital space.
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Report from Entrata finds consumers don’t yet fully understand or trust AI.
Whether we realize it or not, artificial intelligence is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, from virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, to Gmail and Netflix and much more. This kind of technology makes our lives easier in many ways, from finding our favorite songs and shows, to scheduling reminders, sending emails and even submitting a request with the landlord. According to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. residents conducted by Entrata, even though many consumers know the broad definition of AI, most don’t fully understand its scope or how it affects their lives in countless ways. Due to this lack of understanding, many still harbor a lack of trust for both the technology and the companies that use it.
Of those polled, Entrata found that more than 38 percent of respondents have either just heard of artificial intelligence or have no idea what it is. Surprisingly, of those who claimed to be an expert in their understanding of AI, 20 percent not only got the definition wrong, they were significantly more likely to get the definition wrong than other groups who say they know only a little or have just heard of it.
Despite this lack of understanding, more than half (52 percent) of people say they feel comfortable interacting with AI, which is good, because more than 40 percent of people use some form of AI on a weekly basis, whether that be Gmail, Siri or Alexa, Netflix and much more.
A major gripe many reported is the technology’s overall lack of human touch, with more than 20 percent citing it as their top complaint.
In a similar vein, it’s clear people don’t yet fully understand chatbots, with 33 percent of people thinking that Alexa and Siri are chatbots. In fact, 20 percent of people claim to have never interacted with a chatbot. Nearly 30 percent of people don’t think they would recognize when they’re interacting with one.
That said, respondents reported that their favorite things about using chatbots include:
- It’s available 24/7 (39%)
- It’s easily accessible (15%)
- It’s quick and efficient (12%)
- They don’t have to talk to a real person (9%)
And despite people overall wanting chatbots to have more human-like personality qualities, 36 percent of respondents don’t care about those traits as long as they get the information and help they need.
AI/Chatbots and Apartment Living
For those who rent, chatbots and AI can be an incredible tool. Used as an extension of the leasing office, these technologies can improve the resident experience by allowing people to complete tasks or solve problems that are otherwise inconvenient or difficult.
- 62 percent of people would trust a chatbot to schedule maintenance for their apartment or home.
- 36 percent would use a chatbot when reporting a community violation.
Many respondents would like to have smart home features and think they would be helpful in their home or apartment. These include:
- Home security (56%)
- Smart thermostats (47%)
- Smart lighting (44%)
- Leak detection (43%)
- Smart shades (31 %)
- Voice assistants (28%)
Additionally, when searching for a new apartment, more than a quarter (27 percent) of people found that a community's use of various AI and smart home technology made the thought of living there more attractive.
About the Research
Generated by Entrata and fielded in August 2019, the survey collected online responses via Qualtrics from 1,051 U.S. consumers who are over the age of 18.
For smaller apartment operators, maintaining and remodeling apartments can be a challenge. Finding the right partner can help.
Home Depot may be a giant retailer with more than 2,200 stores nationwide and inventory in almost every home-related category, from exterior siding, decking, lighting and paint to a similar array of goods for the interior, such as appliances, flooring, plumbing, cabinets, hardware and fixtures.
But when it comes to its customers, the Atlanta-based retailer is just as concerned about helping to maintain and remodel the assets of smaller multifamily buildings as it is the large-scale counterparts. One way it does this is by providing help through its free Pro Xtra Loyalty Program. The only requirement is that building owners and managers are members of the National Apartment Association (NAA) and/or its affiliates.
The program benefits Home Depot’s two main categories of customers: the small multifamily building owners and managers who shop the stores and company website, and the general contractors they hire to work at their properties. “Both of these kinds of customers seek a dependable partner and our role is to be that partner,” says Brian Aguirre, Home Depot’s National Account Manager for the NAA and Home Depot Open Door Program.
Home Depot has found it does well with these two professional groups because they can find all the varied materials and products in the quality and quantity they need to maintain their building assets, whether it’s through routine maintenance or major remodeling. It stocks its stores, as well as its warehouses and distribution centers. That way everything is available and significant savings are offered through the store Pro Volume Price Program.
Here’s more on how it works. After spending $25,000 in a calendar year, which runs from January 1 through December 31, Loyalty members can earn up to 2 percent back in cash rebate. To secure this rebate, customers must first have properly registered their payment options—registered credit cards, debit cards, P-cards and Home Depot accounts. The rebate checks are issued 60 days after a purchase’s end date. Members also periodically receive exclusive offers and tracking and receipt management tools that list purchases in one invoice rather than on multiple receipts.
To further serve customer needs, stores stay open seven days a week, and all maintain a Pro Desk staffed by employees trained to offer technical expertise that helps the buildings conserve valuable dollars. “For example, these pros know what kind of vinyl plank flooring (VPF) is most popular today and how to install it or what types of LED lighting to buy for outside or inside a building and the individual units,” Aguirre says. Anything purchased at the stores or found at its warehouses and distribution centers is delivered promptly, typically within a few days or even the next day, through the company’s vast distribution network.
Surprisingly, the program, which Home Depot started a few years ago, is not yet taken advantage of by all who might. “Some simply forget to enroll and register their payment or credit cards because they may be so busy. Others don’t use it all the time,” says Aguirre. “They’re missing a great opportunity. Our goal is to bring more awareness and continue to provide excellent customer service to the multifamily industry,” he says.
*“Credit cards” are described as forms of payment including credit cards, P-cards, checking accounts, or Home Depot Net 30 accounts (for PO purchases) that will be used to make purchases from The Home Depot. P-cards must be registered and have an organization-specific agreement code assigned to receive potential annual rebate incentives. Minimum rebate period spend of $10,000 required to receive arebate. ©2015 Homer TLC, Inc. All rights reserved.
Apartment operators want easy access to a wide breadth of supplies that are delivered when needed. Find out how they can get that.
Convenience has become a prime concern for today’s large apartment owners and managers. Having easy access to a wide breadth of supplies that are delivered when needed, backed by a company that can assist with integrated time-saving services and know-how to get more done faster, is essential. In addition, budgets are tight, so having a competitive price is a must.
To cater to the growing surge in multifamily rental properties over the last decade and recognizing the increased demands on property managers and owners, the Atlanta-based retail giant Home Depot recently announced an $11 billion investment over the next few years. This spend in supply chain and other internal enhancements will improve its B2B operations, which include multifamily distribution powerhouse Wilmar, acquired in 2015 as part of the company’s Interline Brands acquisition. There is now only one multifamily supplier that is part of Home Depot, and that is its Home Depot Pro Multifamily division.
Home Depot Pro has developed an interconnected experience that allows its customers to seamlessly blend their physical and digital business worlds. From shopping to ordering to delivery that meets the customer’s specific needs, the company is building total solutions that it feels will redefine the maintenance management experience.
One area where the Home Depot Pro offers value is helping multifamily customers reduce time spent sourcing products in-store or online when scrolling through multiple website pages that list everything from plumbing to HVAC systems, appliances, paint, MRO products and other items to maintain or remodel a building. “Our goal is to make our customers’ shopping experience convenient and fast; with the expertise and commitment from the strongest sales team in the industry,” says Home Depot’s Gregg Kashmanian, Director of National Accounts-Multifamily.
“Traditionally, if a customer went to a Home Depot store, they might only find a small number of light fixtures or garbage disposers at the store, so the store associate would have to contact other local stores to capture more of these items for a customer, resulting in a longer lead-time, multiple shipments, etc. The new Home Depot Pro can offer a property manager 500 new light fixtures and a plethora of garbage disposers ready for next day delivery from one of our multiple distribution centers throughout the continental United States,” Kashmanian says. “We can project manage complex renovations on a set schedule; create product standardization initiatives for additional savings and offer time savers like mobile product scanning and online favorite lists for quick reorders, as well as a variety of programs to serve everyone’s budget. This is where we shine,” Kashmanian says.
The new Home Depot Pro also offers medium-to-large-size multifamily properties additional benefits through its national account agreements. These programs not only provide special pricing, but also provide value-added services like single-account billing for all Home Depot purchases, capital improvement renovation assistance and inventory management through its Stockwise(tm) Shop Management Program designed to organize, manage and replenish a customer’s maintenance inventory to help reduce both tangible and intangible expenses.
“Our overall goal is for multifamily customers to have the best of both the Home Depot retail and the Home Depot Pro for the most convenient and efficient shopping experience possible,” Kashmanian says.
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Industry leaders have the answers and are getting great results adopting smart technology. From marketing and leasing to energy, procurement and vendor management, the numbers help tell the story about what’s really working for multifamily leaders.
How do you convert more leads?
To stay competitive, properties and services must stand out in the busy digital marketplace. From a prospect’s smartphone search to a resident’s online lease renewal, marketing automation can help companies work smarter, exceed customer expectations and convert upwards of 20% more leads.
Many property managers are finding exceptional results through marketing automation strategies including self-scheduled tours, nudge marketing, text messaging and email drip campaigns. Brenda Studt, vice president of marketing for The Excelsior Group now converts 28% of digital leads to residents and attributes their increase to “using high-intent calls to action, including nudge marketing and self-scheduled tours."
This approach to tours is a game changer for MG Properties Group too. “We let prospects text us and self-schedule their tours on our websites. These prospects convert at much higher rates than traditional leads, sometimes by as much as 70%,” said Melise Balastrieri, vice president of marketing and development.
How do you make invoice processing faster and less expensive?
According to Aberdeen research and Yardi data, processing an invoice manually typically takes up to 30 days and costs around $35 per invoice. For most companies, that’s unsustainable. By automating invoice processing and vendor management, processing time drops to under five days, reduces cost per invoice to less than $5, saves hours of staff time, eliminates paper and reduces errors.
Joe Anfuso, CFO of MG Properties Group calculates that “we save around 300 hours a month from not having to go through the paper shuffle and managing mistakes." Normally about 10% of invoices have errors, but automation can reduce that to less than 2%.
Both owners and vendors are seeing the value of automation. Larger businesses that send five or more invoices in a month make up just 7% of vendors but generate 75% of invoices. Giving them an online portal to submit and track invoices helps accounting departments on both sides.
How do you streamline affordable housing applications?
The biggest hurdle can often be compliance, but leading affordable housing apartments are turning to online applications for an easier, paperless process with several benefits. Out of 250,000 units analyzed, 683 online applications were completed every day – saving stacks of paper and time doing in-person intake meetings. But it goes beyond paperless benefits.
Of those online applications, 63% were completed after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. CST giving prospects the freedom and convenience to apply while your office is closed. Additionally, 78% of the applications were abandoned before submission by self-screening for eligibility requirements. This allows your staff to spend time with the 2 out of 10 truly serious and qualified applicants.
Nick Strzelec, property technical analyst for Pinnacle Property Management Services, has seen the results impact his team firsthand. He says, “100% of applications received online are complete and ready to review. Going paperless has eliminated incomplete applications from our inbox. That saves us a lot of staff hours.”
How do you recover resident and vacant unit utility costs?
Utilities are typically the second largest controllable multifamily expense, representing about 21% of an average two bedroom/two bath annual spend per unit. But those costs go beyond resident usage. About 31% of vacant unit utility charges are recoverable and can total $25-$200 per unit in any given month. Manual invoice processing costs can be 80% higher than with automation and may include late fees and overpayments.
Roxann Gendron, vice president and controller of Conifer Realty, says they are saving at least $50,000 a year with a built-in energy management solution. She continues, “Late fees and data entry time are eliminated, providing our community managers the opportunity to focus on our properties and our residents.”
How do you get more answers?
Watch the interviews, download the content and read the stories to learn more about how leading real estate professionals are finding success with innovative solutions.
Learn from industry experts how to get results at RealEstateQuestionsAnswered.com.
Lowe's hurricane preparations and prevention strategies paid off during Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey holds the record for rainfall during a single storm. The Category 4 Hurricane, which hit Houston and the Gulf Coast during the summer of 2017, dumped 51 inches in parts of Texas and 27 trillion gallons of water throughout the state.
As the storm was approaching, Lowe’s Emergency Command Center in North Carolina snapped into action to get critically needed supplies to areas that would be impacted.
The Emergency Command Center, which was created in 1989 in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, helps Lowe’s plan and react to ensure that it has the right products and emergency supplies in the right places to support the needs of its customers and communities. “We’re able to identify products most likely to be in high demand as residents get ready for the storm and then recover,” says a representative from Lowe’s.
As Harvey approached, the Emergency Command Center sent thousands of trucks with supplies, such as flashlights, batteries, plywood, trash bags, electrical cords, gas cans, charcoal grills and tarps, to Texas. The company also kept an updated store closings list on its newsroom during the storm but opened stores as quickly as possible to help customers begin cleaning up.
Lowe’s worked with the Texas Department of Transportation, FEMA and Homeland Security to map detours around flooded areas to keep product flow constant to stores before and after the storm.
Most of Lowe’s 90 stores in the impacted area reopened very quickly following Hurricane Harvey. Some stores that were closed began receiving product on August 29 in anticipation of opening in the next few days as waters receded in Houston and evacuation orders were lifted. A Lowe’s store in Aransas Pass, Texas experienced damage, but its team worked around the clock to get the store reopened for customers.
In addition to customers, Lowe’s prioritizes taking care of its own associates when disaster hits. Lowe’s Employee Relief Fund provides support to associates and their immediate family members who have suffered a significant, unforeseen financial hardship. Associates who suffered damage to their homes and property applied for assistance through this fund.
Since the program’s inception in 1999, the Lowe’s Employee Relief Fund has contributed $29 million in assistance to more than 26,000 employees and their immediate family members. Lowe’s matches each contribution dollar-for-dollar.
Lowe’s associates also helped in the recovery. More than 1,000 Lowe’s associates served on storm relief teams. In fact, 140 associates from New Orleans, many affected by Hurricane Katrina, supported the Houston area and served on storm relief teams following Harvey. “These teams left stores in other areas to serve at impacted stores,” said a Lowe’s representative.
While Lowe’s pays these associates for their expenses and labor, they volunteer for the assignment. “They provide additional personnel to help customers recovering from the hurricane and give local associates time to focus on their families and personal needs,” said the Lowe’s representative.
Thirty years after Hurricane Hugo, Lowe’s continues to learn how to help its communities become more resilient. “Each storm is its own training ground because each is different, so we’ve learned to quickly adapt in the aftermath of each storm to the specific needs of the impacted community,” says the Lowe’s representative.
For Lowe’s preparation is not just about being ready as a company, it’s also about helping prepare its customers for future storms.
“We continue to focus on helping build the hurricane awareness of customers through hurricane product endcaps and the in-store product expertise of our associates, many of whom have been through previous storms,” says the Lowe’s representative