NEW YORK (AP) — Target said Tuesday that it will close nine stores in four states, including one in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood, and three in San Francisco, saying that theft and organized retail crime have threatened the safety of its workers and customers.
The closings, which will be effective Oct. 21, also include three stores in Portland, Oregon, and two in Seattle. Target said that it still will have a combined 150 stores open in the markets where the closures are taking place. It said it will offer affected workers the opportunity to transfer to other stores.
The Minneapolis retailer said the decision to close the stores was difficult.
“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all,” Target said in a statement.
Target said it has invested heavily in strategies to prevent theft, such as adding more security workers, using third-party guard services and installing theft-deterrent tools, like locking up merchandise. It also has trained store leaders and security-team members to protect themselves and de-escalate potential safety issues.
But it noted that it still faced “fundamental challenges” to operate the stores safely — and the business performance at the locations slated for closure was unsustainable.
While the store closings account for just a fraction of the 1,900 stores Target operates nationwide, the move underscores the challenges retailers face in reducing theft in stores, protecting their workers and customers, and maintaining locations in areas that might have few shopping alternatives.
For example, the Target store in East Harlem is one of the few choices residents have nearby to buy good quality healthy foods. In San Francisco, one of the stores slated to close is located at 13th Street and Folsom under a busy overpass with homeless tents in a largely commercial neighborhood with auto shops. In Seattle, one of the stores is located on a busy avenue near the University of Washington.
Target CEO Brian Cornell has been one of a handful of retail CEOs flagging what they described as rising theft over the past year or so. Cornell had held steadfast he didn’t want to resort to closing stores despite mounting losses. Target said in May that theft was cutting into its bottom line and it expected related losses could be $500 million more than last year, when losses from theft were estimated to be anywhere from $700 million to $800 million. So that means losses could top $1.2 billion this fiscal year.
Target said Tuesday that it’s making significant investments in cyber defense to combat retail theft and fraud and has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division to combat retail theft.