The extent of the damage caused by the 2011 Brisbane floods is hitting home across the nation, but if there was one store that shouldn't get wet, it's Umart Milton. Not only is this branch filled to the brim with computer hardware and software, it's now also filled with the brown waters that have affected so many lives elsewhere in the city.
In an attempt to determine the extent of the damage we first called the Milton store directly – of course, there was only a dialtone. Power and telephony have been down across vast swathes of Brisbane, so this was not surprising. Our next port of call was the Eight Mile Plains Umart, and while we did get more than a dialtone, it seems that either network outages or congestion (or both) resulted in a unique error message: "The number you have called is not compatible with your equipment." So, too, did the Southport store have nothing but a dialtone.
We went further afield, and called the Melbourne Umart branch to find out what had happened to Umart in Brisbane. "Currently we don't know... the Milton store is shutting down due to the flood. We have to deliver some new stock from the head office." Puzzled by this last part we enquired where the head office was – and it turns out that the Milton branch is the head office!
Further information was found at the Sunshine Coast store, where staff were more up-to-date with the latest developments closer to the flooded city:
"The Milton store is completely submerged at this stage...in the store itself...we don't know anything. We can't get access to the store. We didn't really get much of a chance to get anything out of the store from what I've been told. By Tuesday lunchtime the store was completely covered. No-one was allowed to go back in to do anything or try to save anything."
The flooding has affected the Umart website temporarily, as their servers were situated at Milton. Though it has now been moved off-site, new orders and warranty claims are unable to be processed at the current time. Though we did receive confirmation from manager Tony Lau that the nearby Eight Mile Plains Umart was not significantly damaged, the Milton store situation appears rather bleak.
Footage online, found via a Whirlpool thread of concerned customers, shows the Milton store on January 11 with waters at its doorstep – waters that now reside over two metres higher. It's apparent from the extent of the flooding that the damage to stock levels will be significant.
To make matters worse for the retailer, other Umart stores receive a large proportion of stock from Milton – how this will affect consumers looking to upgrade this summer remains to be seen.
Update @ 3:25PM: We have received word from Tony Lau that Umart is "organising to get [our] suppliers to deliver stocks to the Eight Mile Plains and Sunshine Coast stores", which will remain open for business.
Update 18/01/2011: The floodwaters have receded and we have images detailing the damage within the store. See our follow-up article here.