Walmart is closing stores in this major US city after CEO warning of high levels of theft

PORTLAND, Oregon — Walmart is closing its last two stores in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, by the end of March after it says they fell short of financial expectations. The decision follows the company’s CEO warning that theft problems could lead to store closures.

The closure of the stores affects nearly 600 employees. Walmart says it will try to move them to out-of-town stores, KPTV Fox 12 reported. More than a dozen stores 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 persists.

“Theft is a problem. It’s higher than what it’s been in the past,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

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

He then warned that how local jurisdictions deal with shoplifting will be a factor and that a lax approach from prosecutors could affect prices and later lead to store closures.

“If that isn’t 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 underperforming stores nationwide, according to The Independent. Other stores to close are in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Washington, DC

Portland struggles with shoplifting.

Last November, when a clothing store closed for good, the owner taped a blistering note to the front door.

“Our city is in danger,” said the note posted at the Rains PDX store. “Small (and large) companies cannot do business in the current state of our city. We have no protection or recourse against criminal behavior that goes unpunished.”

Store owner Marcy Landolfo told Fox News that after 15 burglaries in the past year and a half, the business could not survive the financial burden the crimes have placed on the store.

“The problem is that as small businesses we can’t bear these kinds of losses and stay in business. I won’t even go into the numbers of how much has gone out of pocket,” she said.

This week, Portland police conducted an anti-shoplifting blitz to curb shoplifting in a few malls, KPTV said. Similar efforts 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 largely closed to the public for months.

The company told The Oregonian/Oregon Live that it hoped to reopen the store. “Because a safe workplace is essential for our employees, consumers and communities, we have proposed a sustainable and coordinated partnership with the city to better protect employees, consumers and the community.”

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