Oklahoma tornadoes: Major retailers Target and Walmart hustle to meet demand for necessities

Items such as bottled water, socks and underwear, toothbrushes and plastic storage bins have been in high demand since Monday's tornado in Moore.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: May 23, 2013

Bottled water, socks and underwear, baby diapers, toothbrushes — even ponchos, bandages and flip-flops — have been in high demand at the retailers near Moore as people shop to help those affected by Monday's tornado.

Major retailers such as Target and Walmart are working to ensure what is needed by volunteers, emergency crews and victims is stocked on store shelves. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Ark., looked at what items sold quickly after the 2011 tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., and immediately began trucking those items to stores in Moore, spokeswoman Dianna Gee said.

Water was the first priority. Other items include ready-to-eat food, cleaning supplies, tarps, clothing, plastic storage containers and flip-flops, which are used by emergency responders in community showers, Gee said.

“The last thing we want is someone to go into our store and us not have what they need,” she said.

Angela Cervantes, manager of the Old Navy in Norman's Sooner Mall, noticed shoppers buying basics such as underwear, socks, pants and shirts as donations, as well as to help families they knew who had lost their homes. The store is offering a 30 percent discount to anyone shopping for tornado victims, she said.

Mark Cejda, manager of the Norman SuperTarget, noticed a rush of customers Tuesday buying items to donate — including one shopper who loaded his cart full of Band-Aids. Because of the rain Tuesday, the store also sold a lot of rain ponchos, as well as flashlights, batteries and work gloves needed by volunteers and rescue workers. Basic clothing such as socks and underwear, toiletries, water and storage bins also were in high demand.

The store is receiving special deliveries to replenish its stock of these items, Cejda said.

Community support

Right after the storm, many stores in Moore closed, including Target at 720 SW 19. It reopened Wednesday afternoon.

The Walmart Supercenter at 501 SW 19 was closed temporarily because the power was out, and a Walmart Neighborhood Market at 640 SE 4 was shuttered until Wednesday morning because the roof was damaged.

But even stores that were closed found ways to help by letting volunteers and rescue workers set up in their parking lots. Target was used by the National Guard and other emergency responders, and many volunteers gathered at the Warren Theatre.

The Home Depot, Dick's Sporting Goods and Target have allowed continued use of their parking lots, even as they are trying to reopen, said Deidre Ebrey, a spokeswoman for the city of Moore.

“We want to encourage our citizens to shop the minute they can at these locations, even if it looks a little messy,” she said.

“We want them to do their shopping here. Those dollars are going to be critical.”

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