The retail behemoth said that the four locations “have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago” with annual losses doubling in the past five years. The four Walmart stores that remain open “continue to face the same difficulties,” but executives believe shuttering some of the locations creates the best opportunity to keep the others open.
“Over the years, we have tried many different strategies to improve the business performance of these locations, including building smaller stores, localizing product assortment and offering services beyond traditional retail,” Walmart said in a press release. “It was hoped that these investments would help improve our stores’ performance. Unfortunately, these efforts have not materially improved the fundamental business challenges our stores are facing.”
Associates at the affected locations will be permitted to transfer elsewhere. Walmart added that they will continue seeking solutions to “racial inequity and food deserts” in Chicago.
The decision to shutter the four locations comes one month after Walmart closed the firm’s remaining two stores in Portland, Oregon. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in an interview with CNBC last year that the company has been impacted by an uptick in shoplifting and warned that “stores will close” if the phenomenon is not resolved by city officials.
“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been,” he commented. “We’ve got safety measures, security measures that we’ve put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it.”
Lawlessness in Chicago has indeed increased dramatically over the past four years. There were 490 homicides in the Windy City as of 2019 before murders soared to 772 in 2020 and 800 in 2021 as nationwide Black Lives Matter protests occurred in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has a personal police unit with 71 officers assigned to protect her life, meanwhile proposed eliminating $80 million from the Chicago Police Department budget in 2020.
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson was elected last week to succeed Lightfoot as the next mayor of Chicago; he defeated former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, a moderate rival who had supported increasing law enforcement and bolstering public safety, in a relatively close race.
Johnson garnered criticism throughout the campaign, which centered largely on the city’s struggles to handle rising violent crime, for his description of the “defund the police” movement as an “actual, real political goal” in a 2020 radio interview. He denounced the statement in later interviews as Vallas made his initial remarks a feature in his campaign advertisements.
The announcement of the Walmart closures also comes on the same day reports revealed that the Democratic National Committee selected Chicago as the host city for the 2024 convention, where President Joe Biden is expected to secure the nomination to run for a second term.