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Superstorm Sandy affects juvenile businesses

When Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East coast last week, many of our friends in the juvenile industry were in its path.

 Members of Skip Hop's team carry on with remote meetings at a Manhattan hotel while their offices are without power.Members of Skip Hop's team carry on with remote meetings at a Manhattan hotel while their offices are without power.

Skip Hop CEO Michael Diamant said while all the company's employees are OK, the company's offices in the Flatiron building on 23rd Street were without power last week, and its warehouse in New Jersey was shut down. Adding to the frustration, the company's email server and IT system were not working, so communication - both internal and external - was at a standstill.

"We're completely shut down - emails can't get through, customer service can't get through - all of our contingency plans didn't include half of Manhattan blacked out for a week."

Diamant said his first priority was to ensure that the almost 50 people who work for the company were safe, but without corporate email, that was something of a challenge.

"We talk to each other via corporate email," said Diament. "And suddenly we're asking: do we have everyone's cell phone or personal email? We want to make sure everyone's getting reached."

Diamant and his wife and business partner Ellen relocated to a Manhattan hotel further uptown along with other employees without power, and conducted meetings there as best as possible.

Diamant said social media was incredibly helpful to communicate with both employees and customers in the wake of Sandy.

"Facebook and Twitter became really useful," he said. "You don't expect to have a company that you can't communicate with."

Skip Hop's warehouse, located in New Jersey, suffered no damage but was without power. Diamant said the company lost at least a week's worth of shipping, and that the timing was particularly difficult.

"ABC was a week and a half ago. This is usually a really intense time for communication," said Diamant. "It's a tough week right after the show to not be able to do all the things you want to do."

Long Island juvenile retailer Behr's was without power and phone after the storm, and remained closed for three days. But as soon as power was back on, the store was offering itself up to those affected by the storm.

A message on the Behr's Facebook page on Friday read:

"Behr's is OPEN! Phones? Check. Power? Check. Heat? Check. Families with children that have been stuck in their homes with no power, please come down and take a break with Behr's. We have plenty of stuff for your kids to climb on, we have bagels and pizza right next door, and we will be playing Disney Movies all weekend. We will get through this Long Island, and Behr's is here to help in whatever way we can!"

At juvenile retailer giggle, which has three stores in New York, CEO and founder Ali Wing said power outages were the main problem as well.

Giggle's SoHo store opened without registers yesterday afternoon after being closed for seven days, and the company's Upper East Side and Upper West Side stores were closed Monday and Tuesday. Even giggle's Washington D.C. location was affected, closing early on Sunday and not opening until noon on Tuesday.

Wing said that she was not able to comment on Sandy's economic impact. However, she said, "SoHo is our flagship store and endured the biggest impact."

On the bright side, giggle had to deal only with power outages, and no flooding or looting.

Wing also said that the store's employees really made a difference.

"Some of the SoHo staff was able to pitch in and worked at the Upper East Side and Upper West Side stores, where there were employees who were affected by the storm," said Wing.

Joe Shamie, president of juvenile furniture manufacturer Delta Children's Products, said that even when lower Manhattan was without power, his offices on 26th Street were one of the lucky few not to lose it.

"We seem to be very fortunate," said Shamie.

About seven employees who live in the city made it in to work last Tuesday, said Shamie, who spent more than two hours driving in from Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Shamie said Delta's main warehouse is in Los Angeles, but a secondary warehouse in Bayonne, N.J. was without power and not operating last week. The company's test facility was also without power for a few days.

"We'll have a short blip in sales for the week," said Shamie. "Shipments couldn't go out."

But, he said, he expects things to be back to normal this week.

Shamie also said Delta is sending two or three trailers of merchandise to families affected by the storm through Kids In Distressed Situations' Sandy relief effort.

"We're sending a mixture of everything," said Shamie, who encouraged others in our industry to do the same. "...A lot is needed, and it's needed fast."


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