Multiple Walmart Locations Are Closing This Month, Causing Heated Debate
There's speculation that certain stores are closing due to rampant crime.
By now, you've probably heard that Walmart is closing multiple locations by the end of this month. News broke in February that two Walmart Pickup locations would be shuttering, and since then, several more stores have been added to the list. Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin are among the states losing Walmart stores, with some closing before Friday, and others closing later in March.
Walmart previously told Best Life that there's no single reason for these closures, but that stores on the chopping block were underperforming. Now, however, there's some debate as to why Walmart stores are departing—with particular attention paid to the last remaining locations in Portland, Oregon. Read on for more on the controversy surrounding Walmart's decision to leave Portland completely.
The Portland stores are closing on March 24.
The only two Walmart Supercenters in Portland, Oregon, are closing on March 24, a Walmart source previously confirmed to Best Life. The first store is located at 1123 N Hayden Meadows Drive, just over 12 miles away from the second store at 4200 SE 82nd Avenue in the Eastport Plaza Shopping Mall.
As with the other closures, the stores are shutting down following a review process that identified underperforming stores. Both locations have pharmacies, which are closing the same day, and pharmacists will help customers move prescriptions to another store.
A combined total of 580 employees will be out of work come March 24, per The Oregonian/OregonLive, but Walmart says all associates will be given the opportunity to transfer to a nearby location.
"We are grateful to the customers who have given us the privilege of serving them at our Hayden Meadows and Eastport Plaza locations," Walmart spokesperson Lauren Willis previously said in a statement to Best Life. "We look forward to serving them at our other stores in the surrounding communities and on walmart.com."
Local business owners blame the rise in crime.
Walmart stated that different factors went into consideration, including how the stores have performed over the years and their current performance. But some believe that crime might be at the root of the issue.
Business owners in the area surrounding Walmart on SE 82nd Avenue claim that vandalism and shoplifting are plaguing everyone in the neighborhood, including Walmart, Fox 12 Oregon reported.
"The whole 82nd area has changed in the last 20 years, especially in the last 10 years," Darrel Hanson, who owns a muffler shop nearby, told the outlet. "Each year it keeps going down and down and down. More crime, garbage, homeless people, drugs and nobody wants to help."
Data from the Portland Police Bureau shows that between Jan. 2022 and Jan. 2023, there have been 6,419 burglary reports, 13,284 vandalism reports, and 27,141 larceny offenses in the city of Portland.
Fox 12 Oregon pointed to the Lents Neighborhood specifically—where the Eastport Plaza Shopping Mall is located—which accounted for 147 of these burglaries, 634 larceny offenses, and 337 reports of vandalism.
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Tensions rose when another state governor joined the conversation.
Over the weekend, Texas governor Greg Abbott spoke out about the situation in Portland. "This is what happens when cities refuse to enforce the rule of law," he tweeted on March 5, attaching a link to a Feb. 22 article announcing the closures. "It allows the mob to take over. Businesses can't operate in their environment, and people can't live in it."
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler responded the next day, addressing Abbott directly on Twitter.
"Governor Abbott, are the dozens of Walmart stores that have closed in Texas in recent years all communities that 'refuse to enforce the rule of law?' The retail industry is changing and retail theft is a national issue," Wheeler's tweet reads.
According to Insider, Walmart closed 28 stores in Texas in 2016, after determining they were too close to other Walmart locations.
In a separate tweet, Wheeler added that Portland is "making historic investments into our community safety resources to combat this challenge that our business, workers, and residents face."
Wheeler told Fox 12 Oregon that he and his team are working to restaff the Portland Police Bureau and increase grant funding for Portland businesses, among other initiatives.
Best Life reached out to Walmart for comment on the recent claims that crime is behind the Portland closures, but has yet to hear back.
There are claims that another Walmart closure is crime-related.
Portland is far from the only city dealing with retail crime—and some say that it might also be the reason a Walmart is closing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, in 2022, a total of 708 calls were made to police at and around the Walmart. Local shoppers noticed, too, with Michael Thomas telling Insider that he has seen a rise in theft when shopping there, and another telling the Albuquerque Journal, "If it were my store, I would probably close it, too."
Much like the other closing stores, however, Walmart maintains that there isn't just one reason the store is closing, and the company has not cited crime as a contributing factor. However, a spokesperson did tell Insider that the Albuquerque Police Department "has been a great partner and we are extremely appreciative of their efforts to combat crime at this store."
Walmart has spoken about retail theft in the past.
The idea of crime contributing to Walmart's store closures isn't too far-fetched, as Walmart CEO Doug McMillon addressed a rise in retail theft late last year.
In a Dec. 2022 appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box, the CEO said that shoplifting impacts company decisions and called out prosecutors who don't enforce laws to prevent criminals from stealing.
"If that's not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close," McMillon warned.