Walmart said it is permanently closing the last two stores in Portland—months after its CEO warned about historic increases in theft.
The stores, located at the Delta Park and Eastport Plaza malls in north and southeast Portland, are set to shutter on March 24.
The retail giant said it is closing the stores, which served as havens for lower-income shoppers throughout the city, because they were failing to meet financial expectations.
‘The decision to close these stores was made after a careful review of their overall performance,’ a rep told the station this week.
‘We consider many factors,’ the spokesperson would then add, pointing to ‘current and projected financial performance, location, population, customer needs, and the proximity of other nearby stores’ when making the ‘difficult’ decision.
The closings are the latest example of businesses moving in, or closing up shop entirely, in a time of sharp increases in crime and homelessness.
The mass exodus was driven by owners fed up with Portland’s dismal conditions, as well as officials’ successive inability to address either crisis.
‘After we decide to move forward, our focus is on our associates and their transition, which is the case here,’ the Walmart spokesperson assured KPTV in its statement of the roughly 600 staffers spread between the two stores, as well as its pharmacies, who will be displaced.
Once heralded as a jewel of the West for its hip arts and dining scenes, the city has already seen a Portland Nike shop shuttered due to massive shoplifting last year, as well as a popular retail shop downtown ripped apart 15 times over a period of only two months.
‘We expect the employment separations to be permanent,’ Walmart said.
‘We are grateful to the customers who have given us the privilege of serving them at our Hayden Meadows and Eastport Plaza locations,’ the rep added – with residents already protesting the decision.
Portland’s current dilemma has persisted post-pandemic, and will now deny residents its last two remaining affordable, accessible outlets in an era of skyrocketing grocery costs and economic uncertainty.
‘Safeway is the go-to-store if I have to but that’s three times the price I would spend here,’ Amanda Pahl told KPTV this weekend outside the closing Eastport Plaza location, where a giant ‘store closing’ sign was recently erected.
‘What are we going to do? You got to go further, then you have to spend gas money. Might as well pay for it at Safeway at this point.’
(Editor’s Note: Doesn’t Portland just have a Whole Foods these people can go to!?)
In a statement to local news outlet KPTV, Big Box Store executives cited that uncertainty as a reason for closing two of Portland’s last remaining Wal-Marts.
Employees would have the option to move to locations beyond the city limits, a spokesperson added, although only a few are walking distance, with the closest being three miles away in suburban Happy Valley.
Others, in satellite cities like Gresham and Milwaukie, are potentially also within walking distance, about five and six miles from Portland’s nearest superstore, respectively.
Only a few others are located within ten miles of the downtown area, which has been overwhelmed by hundreds of homeless encampments, filled with tents and open-air drug-dealing.
The city’s problems have become so apparent that local leaders, having failed for most of three years to address livability issues, are sharing strategies for appeasing fed-up businesses and residents, because unrest is likely to spread to surrounding counties, where public sentiment is typically more conservative.
The business added the store will be closed to the public March 24, with employees given until June 2 to decide before being let go.
They argue the closing will have lasting, negative effects on lower-income shoppers who are already forced to travel through Portland between the two stores, located on opposite sides of town.
She and others suggest mass theft is behind Walmart’s decision to shutter the only two Portland locations, which she said she relied on for her family’s food supplies and other necessities.
The following day, social media footage emerged showing thieves breaking into that very same Walmart, brazenly walking out in front of the store’s employees and pulling out of a Big-Screen TV, then backing out of a vehicle. In their rush to flee, one of the looters left behind one of his shoes as a result of a skirmish.
Such instances are becoming more and more common, not just at the Portland Walmart, but at locations around the country. Criminals continue to become bolder following multiple failed efforts to defund police forces and reform the cash bail laws, which offer virtually no deterrent to repeat offenders.
The retail staple has shuttered stores in Arkansas, Florida, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Illinois over the last year, prompting CEO Doug McMillon to warn in December that shoppers may see even more store closings as retail crime continues to increase throughout most of the country.
Appearing on CNN’s “Squawk Box,” the executive said store thefts are at their highest level in the chain’s 61-year history, even though stores—like many others over the last few years—have implemented safety measures to help fight the problem.
Asked whether local jurisdictions and how they handle shoplifting cases would affect the closing, McMillon said cities with lenient approaches by prosecutors to deter crimes may see the stores close in the future.
“If that’s not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close,” McMillon said of the progressive policies being implemented by officials across the country, including places like Portland by Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt.