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Greco Advises DMers on Reaction to Katrina

John A. Greco Jr., president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, is saddened by the devastation left this week by Hurricane Katrina. But he also has advice for direct and interactive marketers nationwide looking for ways to reconfigure marketing and business efforts in the Gulf Coast states.

“As with any citizen or corporate citizen, our hearts and thoughts go out to all of the people and businesses that have been affected by this devastating storm,” Greco said. “We have alerted our DMA members to the state of emergency declaration and to the impact that it might have on their businesses. So, for example, our members should not be telemarketing into that area.”

Except for Florida, affected states like Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are not major direct or interactive marketing centers on the supply side. But that doesn’t mean local businesses in those states aren’t involved with the direct or interactive discipline, either through trade or marketing.

“In reality, just about everybody is a direct marketer whether they realize it or not,” Greco said. “They might not be as large a supplier to the direct marketing process, but as marketing users of the process, they’re certainly significant.”

Already, several industries are feeling the effect of port closures along the Gulf Coast, which is home to several important ports, including the Port of New Orleans. New Orleans and other Gulf ports handle $150 billion in cargo yearly, accounting for one-fifth of U.S. imports and exports, according to a report on MarketWatch.com yesterday.

Also, parcel shipments in and out of the area have been affected. The U.S. Postal Service suspended the sale of Express Mail in several ZIP codes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In addition, it closed a large number of ZIP codes in the region and expanded from Monday the ZIP codes not accepting drop shipments and where retail and delivery services are suspended until further notice.

The final impact of Hurricane Katrina is still being assessed, but with dozens dead, 80 percent of New Orleans and other portions of southern Mississippi and Alabama under water and power predicted to be out in many areas for weeks, the storm’s legacy is sure to be felt for some time.

“We, in particular, are affected because we have experienced many successful visits to New Orleans with our members for various conferences and exhibitions,” Greco said. “We can really relate to that community and naturally share everyone’s concern for the rebuilding and hopefully the protection of the wonderful environment that was there.”

Multichannel merchants with outposts in the region are reporting numerous store closings, according to wire reports. Wal-Mart also closed more than 120 stores. The company is also one of the many lining up to donate relief money in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Wal-Mart said yesterday it will donate $1 million to The Salvation Army.

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