Target is closing nine stores. Three in Portland, Oregon, three in San Fransisco and Oakland, California, two in Seattle, Washington and one in New York City.
The reason? Organized crime thefts and inventory losses from those groups and individuals that total in the many hundreds of thousands. Target officials also say they worry about the safety of employees.
Walmart just closed a bunch of them in the same cities and for the same reason.
In California 20 thieves in masks and hoods hit a Nordstrom store and took off with over $300,000 in luxury items. A few days earlier hooded and masked thieves grabbed $400,000 in merchandise at a store in a Glendale, California mall.
These are daylight robberies.
The National Retail Federation said the cost of losses from theft has grown to almost $100 billion a year. These thefts are from gangs of thieves, and from individuals knowing they can score without much chance of getting caught or prosecuted.
Nordstrom CEO, Erik Nordstrom talked with stockholders last week in an earnings call.
“Losses from theft are at historical highs, and I’d say, we find it unacceptable,” Nordstrom said. “We’re looking at everything we can do to make our stores are safe and secure.”
That’s going to be a tough one because critics say crimes like these checked out but then are often largely ignored by politicians and state and city officials. They can do very little about them.
Several people took video of the $300,000 heist at the Nordstrom store and it pushed California Governor Gavin Newsom to respond. He sent $267 million in grants to 55 local agencies. The purpose will be to battle these kinds of crimes and to put better surveillance technology in these stores.
Newsom also wants this money to target these criminals in what are being called “blitz operations.”
Critics are not exactly thrilled with Newsom’s money gift. They say the biggest problem is prosecutors who refuse to prosecute when these thieves are finally caught.
California Retailers Association CEO, Rachel Michelin said in many cases prosecutors don’t require bail money to release people caught stealing $950 or less. She says with few, or no, consequences that means a low-level thief often graduates to something bigger.
“When people realize there’s no consequence, that behavior is going to escalate,” Michelin said.
She also points out that flash mob theft, and some of the violence associated with the criminals attacking these stores, consumers are staying away in droves. That means stores — like Target and Walmart — close, workers end up unemployed. Worse, sales tax revenues drop and it makes it harder for cities to pay police and retain officers.
Another issue these stores battle is vagrants and homeless people camping on sidewalks at, or near, the stores. That keeps people away and keeps new businesses from wanting to open in an area with crime and vagrancy issues.
Rick Caruso heads up the Americana brand at a mall in Glendale where those thieves looted a store for $400,000 in goods. He agrees with Michelin. “The problem is with the DA’s office,” Caruso said. “You can have all the task forces in the world, but if nobody’s being held accountable, it doesn’t matter.”
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