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Target announced plans to shut down nine stores across four different U.S. states after ongoing reports of violence, theft, and organized retail crime have threatened the safety of shoppers and employees.
The company said effective October 21, three stores in the San Francisco-Oakland area, three more in Portland, two locations in Seattle, and one store in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City will permanently close.
“We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” Target said in a news release.
Before making the decision, Target officials said the retailer corporation invested “heavily” in efforts to prevent and stop organized retail crime in its stores, including ramping up internal security team members and third-party guard services, but struggled to combat the uptick in retail theft from organized smash-and-grab robberies involving large groups of thieves.
Target’s CEO Brian Cornell said last month the company has been battling an “unacceptable amount” of retail theft that has become increasingly violent and dangerous for workers.
Store theft that included “violence or threats of violence” surged 120% during the first five months of the year, Cornell said, adding that Target’s full-year profitability is expected to reduce by more than $500 million compared to the previous year.
Cornell reportedly said the company intended to keep locations open after releasing its rising shrink reported in the fiscal second-quarter earnings in mid-May.
“We do not want to close stores. We know how important our stores are. They create local jobs, they generate taxes, they’re very important for those local shoppers, and they play a critical role in communities across the country,” Cornell said. “We’ll continue to do everything in our power to keep our doors open,” he added. “At the same time, we’ll be closely monitoring the safety of our team and guests as well as the financial impact to our business as we determine the right path forward at Target.”
Organized retail theft has spiked in cities around the country, with videos from some incidents showing hooded figures in dark clothes darting in and out of stores with merchandise, often expensive luxury items.
Critics blame progressive prosecutors, who they say allow criminals to get off without serious consequences — if they face consequences at all.
Earlier this year, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced legislation to target the rise in flash mob robberies sweeping the nation, which they estimated costs retailers $720,000 for every $1 billion in sales — a 50% increase since 2015.
The bill, which Target officials advocated for in its announcement on Tuesday, would create a multi-agency federal task force at the state and local levels to promote inter-agency efforts and cooperation to crack down on theft and organized retail crime.
CNBC reported that over the last two years, at least nine states have passed similar laws to impose harsher penalties for those involved in organized retail crime.
Target’s latest announcement comes after the company revealed a dismal quarterly report showing its sales sank 5.4% for the first time in six years after facing national backlash over its Pride Month collection.
Mairead Elordi contributed to this report.