As Retail Crime Intensifies in Portland, Companies Temporarily Close or Wind Down Stores

Waves of crime in Portland, Ore., have prompted some retailers to wind down their businesses there.

Walmart confirmed to FN this week that it will close the last two of its stores in Portland by March 24. The news comes months after Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC that its stores are grappling with an increase in organized retail crime.

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

Walmart’s U.S. communications director said these stores, located at Hayden Meadows and East Port Plaza, were underperforming and did not confirm if the closures were a result of increased retail crime in the city. In recent weeks, Portland police have increased efforts to crack down on organized retail theft via specifically targeted operations in areas of high theft, KGW8 reported. On Sunday, Portland police conducted a retail theft “blitz” mission in northeast Portland to help curb shoplifting at businesses in the area, KPTV reported.

A Nike Community Store in Northeast Portland was also reportedly impacted by waves of crime in the region, which likely prompted the closure of the store for weeks, between October and November, KGW8 reported. FN has reached out to Nike for a comment regarding the status of this store. (Its website currently leads to a dead end.)

Nike asked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler last month to station off-duty police officers as a security measure for the store, The Oregonian reported. Wheeler declined, though outlined a plan to introduce increased safety measures in the area and asked Nike and other retailers to step up their own security measures.

Outside of Portland, retail theft is plaguing other industry players. The National Retail Federation’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey found that retail shrink — or when stores have fewer products than recorded in inventory books — when taken as a percentage of total retail sales in 2021, accounted for $94.5 billion in losses in 2021.

Target CEO Brian Cornell said in November that the company has seen “a significant increase in theft and organized retail crime” across its business and has invested in new training and technology to combat the problem, which is typically driven by organized crime rings that sell stolen goods online.

At the time, Target said retail shrink had reduced the company’s gross margin by $400 million and could grow to a $600 million impact by the end of the year.

“This is a nationwide problem that we need to address nationwide with other retailers,” said Target COO John Mulligan. “There is a role for us to work as a retail group with law enforcement and with the government to help find solutions.”

Rite Aid in September also noted a $5 million headwind from shrink, mainly in its New York urban stores. Retail crime has also been especially problematic in California. In October, Cotopaxi closed its San Francisco store after a stream of smash-and-grab thefts hit the store.

To combat the issue on a national level, the U.S. House of Representatives in November passed the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) Consumers Act, which works to help inform consumers about this illicit activity and helps law enforcement target criminals who sell high volumes of stolen merchandise on e-commerce marketplaces.

“We have to come together with retailers, legislators and police and band together to combat this growing epidemic that we have on our hands,” Millie Kresevich, senior director of asset protection for luxury eyewear maker EssilorLuxottica, said during a session during the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in January. “Retailers are spending a lot of money to secure stores, from security guards, to different technologies that we’re using. But it’s not enough. We have to be able to combat this from many different angles, and it’s going to take a coalition being built to be able to combat it through legislation, policing and retailers.”

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