Another day, another store closing in San Francisco (actually two)

Earlier this month I wrote about San Francisco’s flagship Whole Foods supermarket which announced it was closing after just one year because of high theft and security issues for employees who worked there. Today, SFGate reports another store downtown is closing after two decades.

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Anthropologie, a retailer chain that specializes in women’s clothing and accessories, is closing its location at 880 Market St. on May 13, according to the Anthropologie website. The 880 Market St. location has been a staple of the Union Square retail space, and originally opened there more than two decades ago.

Anthropologie didn’t say why it was closing. Is it inflation? Was it the pandemic and the subsequent urban doom loop? Or did it have to do with retail theft and threats against employees from deranged street people? The reality is it could be all three at once but don’t discount theft as a big factor. San Francisco leads the nation in property crime. It’s a tax on every business that tries to operate in the city. And so it doesn’t surprise me that there’s another announcement of a store closure from another major retailer today.

Office Depot will close a downtown location at 33 Third Street in the Hearst Parking Center, an employee confirmed on Tuesday. The closing date has not been publicly announced.

The closures are the latest in a series of retailers leaving Union Square and downtown San Francisco in recent months as commuters and shoppers have failed to return to the area in large numbers as the pandemic has ebbed.

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The SF Standard reports this brings the total number of retail stores who have announced closures in the area to seventeen:

The departure is another blow to the city’s famed shopping district, which has lost a total of 17 retailers in the past three years, according to an analysis by The Standard. Companies that cited reasons for closing Union Square locations attributed it to a re-evaluation of real estate portfolios because of the pandemic or business priorities.

Retailers always seem hesitant to admit theft and street violence are to blame. I’m not sure why that is but my guess is they are worried about being dragged into the political realm. In a city like San Francisco or Portland or Seattle any comment that seems to condemn the behavior of street people is liable to lead to outrage and condemnation from a segment of the populace. So even when it’s obviously having an impact, most big chains avoid talking about theft directly and say something generic about certain stores not meeting profit expectations. That may even be true in the sense that it’s hard to meet profit expectations when thousands in merchandise are walking out the door every week.

Speaking of which, yesterday Beege wrote about a San Francisco Target store which seems to have taken loss-prevention to a new level. Instead of shelves with merchandise, the entire store is locked glass cabinets. You literally need someone to unlock the door to buy anything, which doesn’t seem like a very enjoyable or practical way to shop. I also wonder, on a very practical level, what’s to stop the homeless thieves from asking for a cabinet to be unlocked or waiting for staff to unlock it from an actual customer and then raiding everything inside. Staff are told never to attempt to stop the thieves so once that door is open they can go right back to boosting.

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Maybe that sounds a bit fatalistic but I’m not seeing how these solutions can possibly work when the underlying problem is people willing to carry out brazen thefts, sometimes twice a day. Until the small army of homeless addicts in the city decides it’s no longer worth it to steal from these retailers they are going to keep closing stores.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 24, 2024
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