Hurricane Sandy Is an Ongoing Story for Families and Retailers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's hard to believe that it's been a month since my post-Hurricane Sandy column ran. I'm still grateful to my editors at the Street.com for publishing this piece, which was personal in nature and a vast departure from my typical value-related drivel. After experiencing some of the devastation first-hand, it's all I could muster. And I still count us as among the fortunate.

It's an ongoing story, too, as the cleanup continues and I still count us as among the fortunate. We've personally ripped out much of the downstairs of our little cottage, carpets, padding drywall, insulation. We've thrown away most of the contents: beds, clothing, furniture, appliances.

Much of what we had was old, or hand-me-down, but it was ours, and despite the fact that most of it was worth little, it was still ours. This little cottage was no palace, but it was the source of years of family-time, and a place we have watched our kids grow up.

But there was one huge bright spot here. After another long day of tearing things apart, and adding to the huge pile of debris in front of our house, a woman approached me saying she thought she'd sighted our front porch, which had floated away during the flooding.

We walked a block and a half, and there it sat! Our old front porch, which we figured was long gone, looking a bit more ragged, and covered with debris, but intact.

The best part was that one of the pots of flowers I'd left on it pre-storm (a gesture of hope) was exactly where I'd left it! Our porch floated down our street in five feet of water, took a right turn, then a left, before ending up in a driveway. Somehow, the flowers stayed. It was not only unbelievable but the little shot in the arm that we needed.

Now the rebuilding begins, and it will be an enormous task, with huge economic implications. In the aftermath of this storm, there are thousands and thousands of homeowners that have much to replace in order to get their homes back in order. The number of appliances that will need to be replaced due to water damage -- stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers -- is staggering. Add to that all the drywall, carpeting, flooring, that will need to be re-done, and it's safe to say that retailers in the affected areas will be extremely busy, especially once insurance claims are realized.

Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW) should see sales soar in these areas, not only from building materials, but from appliance sales as well. Best Buy (BBY), which has had a rough run this year, may also benefit from the appliance side, as could Sears (SHLD).

Demand for lumber and related products should also rise in the affected areas, which may benefit names such as Plum Creek Timber (PCL), Rayonier (RYN), and Weyerhauser (WY). Leading Sheetrock manufacturer USG (USG) should also see some increasing demand.

Whether or not the demand will be great enough to move the needle for any of these companies remains to be seen. But after viewing some of the damaged areas, and seeing the piles of ripped-out building materials, and appliance after appliance, at the front of every home, I could not help but to think that there will be a lot of money changing hands in order to put things back to normal.

Not the type of stimulus package anyone would ever hope for, but it is what it is.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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