Walmart closes an underperforming store in Everett that some neighboring businesses say is plagued by theft.
“We’ve seen people come out with TVs, big boxes of who knows what, one time a vacuum cleaner,” said Hannah Barnett, who works at the Bud Hut marijuana store on State Highway 99 from the Walmart, which the company says will close April 21.
Walmart said in a statement Friday that the store, at 11400 Highway 99, is closing after the retailer determined it was “not performing as well as we hoped.” The retailer said the store’s 198 employees will be able to transfer to other Walmart locations, including a Supercenter at 1605 SE Everett Mall Way and five other stores in Snohomish County. Walmart has 65 locations in Washington.
But several businesses near the closing store said shoplifting has become a serious problem, including at Walmart.
“From what I’ve heard from Walmart personnel, I think that’s what caused the closure,” said Dennis Matheson, owner of the nearby Chuck’s Chevron Services Center. “You know, when you go there [to Walmart] and the socks are under lock and key, it is very clear” theft is a problem.
At Imrans Market, store employee Jabeen Qureshi said Walmart employees who passed by “always told us about the problems there.”
A Walmart spokesperson declined to comment on reports of shoplifting.
Opened in 2006, the Highway 99 Walmart is one of 15 Walmarts in 11 Walmart states reportedly set to close in 2023, according to Business Insider.
The chain of stores periodically reviews the performance of its nearly 5,000 stores in the U.S. “and unfortunately some of them are not meeting our financial expectations,” the company said Friday. Last April, Walmart closed its Factoria location.
Walmart said “there is no single cause” for a store closing and that decisions are based on “current and projected financial performance, location, population, customer needs and proximity to other nearby stores.”
But top company officials have also acknowledged that shoplifting is an increasing problem for Walmart nationally and could lead to closures if left unchecked.
“Theft is a problem. It’s higher than what it’s been in the past,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC in December. When asked about reports that some police departments and prosecutors have relaxed enforcement of theft laws, McMillon said, “If that isn’t corrected over time, prices will be higher and/or stores will close.”
In late February, Walmart said it would close its two Portland stores, though other locations in the area remain open. Walmart did not give the reason for shoplifting, but Portland police say theft has become a serious problem for stores. “We’re letting major retailers leave,” Jordan Zaitz of the Portland Police Department told KPTV. “I mean Walmart closing two of its stores is a really big deal. The people in those neighborhoods, that’s where they shop.”
Everett police say they are not aware of “a higher rate of shoplifting” at the Highway 99 store compared to other local retailers, department spokesman Ora Hamel said. “Shoplifting is probably a problem everywhere, but as far as we know there is no higher incidence than others [retailers].”
Crime and safety issues have been cited at other local closures.
In July, Starbucks closed its store near Walmart Highway 99 and five Seattle stores due to the number of crime complaints registered at each location.
Theft and other property crimes in Everett were up 17% in 2022 from 2019, but down 17% from 2016, according to estimates presented to the City Council by Police Chief Dan Templeman in August.
In Seattle, theft and robbery were up 10% in 2022 from 2019 and 5% from 2016, according to data from the Seattle Police Department.
Walmart owns the property in Everett but has not yet made any plans for it, according to The Daily Herald.
Walmart hopes to keep any disruptions from the closure to a minimum. The company said pharmacy staff will help move customers’ prescriptions to other stores and emphasized efforts to retain all store employees, who the company said were not responsible for the closure.
“This decision is in no way a reflection of their hard work and customer service,” the company said.
This story has been updated with additional store closures reported by Business Insider.