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Walgreens cited shoplifting as the justification for closing 5 stores in San Francisco, but local officials, data and experts questioned that explanation

Customers walk past products locked in security cabinets at a Walgreens store that is scheduled to close in the coming weeks on October 13, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

  • Walgreens said it was closing some stores in San Francisco due to an increase in retail theft.

  • Police data obtained by the Chronicle did not show high rates of reports of shoplifting in stores that were closing.

  • An expert said people leaving town during the pandemic could have hurt Walgreens’ business.

Walgreens said on Tuesday it would be closing five of its stores in San Francisco due to “organized retail crime,” but data from police departments, local officials and political experts cast doubt on that reasoning, according to a report published by the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday.

While the report says the chain has suffered retail thefts, other factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaturation of stores have been cited as potential factors behind the decision to close the stores.

Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said retail thefts from its San Francisco stores have increased in recent months to five times the chain average, SFGate reported.

However, data from the San Francisco Police Department obtained by The Chronicle contradicts claims by Walgreens, with one of the stores scheduled to close reporting only 23 shoplifting incidents since 2018. Some shoplifting incidents do not are probably unreported, but stores that closed had less than two on average. shoplifting reports per month since 2018.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers in San Francisco, and we are not immune to it,” Caruso told SFGate. “During this period, to help combat this problem, we have increased our investment in security measures in city stores to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed rebuffed Walgreens’ reasoning for store closings.

“They say (shoplifting is) the main reason, but I also think one place isn’t generating income and it’s saturated – SF has a lot of Walgreens locations all over town – so I think there are other factors that come into play, ”she told reporters last week.

Dean Preston, supervisor of San Francisco’s 5th District, which will be affected by a store closure, said the drugstore chain is “abandoning the community” and has “long been planning to close stores,” the San reported. Francisco Chronicle.

“It is strange that some are so offended that I am suggesting that a large corporate chain close retail stores for the exact reason they told investors they would be closing stores, rather than for the reasons stated. in its external public relations, “Preston said in a statement. Tweeter Friday.

In a 2019 Security and Exchange Commission filing, Walgreens announced it would launch a “transformation cost management program” that would close 200 stores in the United States to save $ 1.5 billion in annual expenses. by 2022.

A May study published by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom found that 15% of residents left San Francisco during the pandemic and did not return, which he told The Chronicle could explain the decline in Walgreens customer base. in the city.

San Francisco has relatively high property crime rates, which criminal justice researcher Magnus Lofstrom told The Chronicle could be in part due to the Bay Area’s high income equality.

Walgreens did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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