Plywood could be hard to come by as retailers across the country board up storefronts in anticipation of civil unrest on Election Day or in its wake.

Cbsnews – Security experts have warned of expected chaos, no matter the outcome of the election, particularly in battleground states and in the downtown areas of cities where protests over police brutality took place this summer. 

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High-end and discount retailers alike are heeding these warnings in an effort to protect their real estate, merchandise and personnel. 

Luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue is among the pricey retailers that have taken precautionary measures, including boarding up windows of some of its 45 U.S. stores, citing the possibility of election-related civil disorder.

“An abundance of caution”

“Out of an abundance of caution, like many businesses, we are implementing additional security measures at certain locations in the event of civil unrest due to the current election,” a Saks Fifth Avenue spokesperson said in a statement. “This could include boarding or additional security personnel. As always, the safety of our customers, associates and communities, as well as the protection of our physical assets, is of utmost importance.”

Election 2020 

A spokesperson for Tiffany & Co. said that precautions being taken by the famed jeweler also vary by city, and will include boarding up windows.

Such actions are wise, according to experts. 

“Some on the more high-end of the retail spectrum, luxury goods, electronics types of things that might be targeted in looting — those are the types of businesses that are getting out in front of these types of issues,” Wood of Control Risks said. 

Other kinds of retailers, including CVS Health, are also taking precautions against post-election protests.

A CVS Health spokesperson said that actions will vary by region, and include, in some cases, boarding up store windows. “Any store with boarded windows will continue to be open to serve customers as long as it is safe to do so,” a company spokesperson said. 

Discount retailers such as Target are also taking steps in case of civil unrest, according to media reports.

Scrambling for plywood

Given the sudden need for enhanced security, some suppliers of plywood this weekend reported running low on large sheets of the material.

A sales-floor employee in the lumber section of Home Depot near Madison Square Park in Manhattan said the store had recently sold out of larger sheets of plywood. (A Home Depot spokesperson said the company does not break out sales trends or numbers for specific categories.) 

Meanwhile, construction and security companies tasked with securing storefronts say they’ve had to scramble to secure the right quantities of material. 

Stephen Kellenbach, who works for Advanced Facilities Solutions, a New Jersey-based management and construction company, said one of its large retail clients enlisted the company to board up 40 store locations in and around Philadelphia. He had to visit four different Home Depot locations in order to fulfill the customer’s order, he said. 

New clients, outside the company’s usual customer base, have also inquired about protections ahead of the election. “These aren’t things we normally do but it’s absolutely a service we are now offering,” Kellenbach said.

There’s always steel

Some stores are going well beyond plywood to secure their businesses. 

Marian Bobolea owner of Starr Industries, a scaffolding company that barricaded the Apple Cube on a Fifth Avenue plaza to protect it against looting during riots over the death of George Floyd in June, said he has discussed election-related contracts with 10 to 15 different retailers in New York City.

Some of Starr’s systems cost clients upward of $100,000, particularly if a store is located on an open plaza, for example. 

According to retail and security experts, they’re not overreacting.

“Any retailer large, medium, small, regardless of the kinds of things they sell from luxury down to grocery, has to be extraordinarily concerned about what may or may not happen Tuesday and in the days that follow the election,” said Mark Cohen, a former CEO and retail studies professor at Columbia University.

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