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Increase in organized retail theft leads Walmart to close stores in Portland

In December, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said a lax approach from prosecutors could lead to store closures


By Robert Higgs

PORTLAND, Oregon — Walmart will shutter its last two stores in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, by the end of March after it says they were not meeting financial expectations. The decision comes on the heels of the company’s CEO warning that theft issues could force store closures.

The closure of the stores will affect nearly 600 workers. Walmart says it will try to relocate them at 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 continued.

“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We’ve got safety measures, security measures that we’ve put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it,” McMillon said.

He cautioned then that how local jurisdictions handle retail theft will be a factor and that a lax approach from prosecutors could impact prices and lead to store closures down the line.

“If that’s not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close,” McMillon said.

The closures in Portland come as Walmart prepares to close 10 under-performing stores across the country, according to The Independent. Other stores to shutdown are in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

Portland has been grappling with retail theft.

Last November, when a clothing shop closed permanently, the owner posted a blistering note on the front door.

“Our city is in peril,” the note on Rains PDX store said. “Small businesses (and large) cannot sustain doing business, in our city’s current state. We have no protection, or recourse, against the criminal behavior that goes unpunished.”

Store owner Marcy Landolfo told Fox News that after 15 break-ins over the last year and a half, the business could not survive the financial burdens the crimes have cost the shop.

“The problem is, as small businesses, we cannot sustain those types of losses and stay in business. I won’t even go into the numbers of how much has been out of pocket,” she said.

This week Portland police conducted an anti-shoplifting blitz, looking to curb retail thefts at a pair of malls, KPTV said. Similar efforts took 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 has 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 essential for 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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