By Robert Higgs
PORTLAND, Ore. – Walmart is closing its last two stores in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, at the end of March after it says they failed to meet financial expectations. The decision comes on the heels of the company’s chief executive warning that theft problems could force store closures.
The closing of the stores will affect almost 600 workers. Walmart says it will try to move them to stores outside the city, KPTV Fox 12 reported. More than a dozen stores will remain in the Portland metro area.
In December, CEO Doug McMillon warned that an increase in theft could force the retailer to either raise prices or close stores if the problem continues.
“Theft is a problem. It’s higher than it’s been historically,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“We have security measures, security measures that we put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement is staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation and that’s usually how we approach it,” said McMillon.
He then warned that how local jurisdictions deal with retail theft will be a factor, and that a lax approach by prosecutors could affect prices and lead to store closings later.
“If not corrected over time, prices will be higher and/or stores will close,” McMillon said.
The closings in Portland come as Walmart prepares to close 10 underperforming stores across the country, according to The Independent. Other stores to close are in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Washington, DC
Portland has struggled with retail theft.
Last November, when a clothing store closed permanently, the owner put a blistered note on the front door.
“Our city is at risk,” the note said of Rain’s PDX store. “Small businesses (and large) cannot sustain business in the current state of our city. We have no protection or recourse against the criminal behavior that goes unpunished.”
Store owner Marcy Landolfo told Fox News that after 15 burglaries over the past year and a half, the business could not survive the financial burden the crimes have taken on the store.
“The problem is, as small businesses, we can’t take that kind of loss and stay in business. I won’t even get into the numbers of how much has been out of pocket,” she said.
This week, Portland police conducted an anti-shoplifting blitz to curb retail theft at a pair of malls, KPTV said. Similar efforts in December and February led to more than 100 arrests.
Last month, Nike said it would cover the cost of off-duty police officers to provide security at one of its stores, which have been mostly closed to the public for months.
The company told The Oregonian/Oregon Live it hoped to reopen the store. “Because a safe and secure workplace is critical to our employees, consumers and communities, we have proposed a sustained and coordinated partnership with the city to better protect employees, consumers and the community.”
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