Portland and Texas Politicians Argue Over Why Walmart Is Closing Stores

  • The mayor of Portland, Oregon, replied to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s tweet about Walmart leaving the city.
  • Mayor Ted Wheeler pointed out that theft at retailers is a national problem.
  • Walmart has said its closing stores this year for many reasons and hasn’t called out retail crime.

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, hit back against an accusation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that Walmart is leaving the city because of crime.

On Sunday, Abbott, a Republican, tweeted a link to an article about Walmart’s decision to close its last two stores in Portland. The story noted that Walmart considered various factors in making the closures, including the stores’ financial performance. An accompanying video segment quoted a shopper complaining about shoplifting at the store.

Abbott commented on the article, saying, “This is what happens when cities refuse to enforce the rule of law.” 

Mayor Ted Wheeler replied on Monday, referring to “dozens of Walmart stores that have closed in Texas in recent years.” 

“The retail industry is changing and retail theft is a national issue,” he added. Wheeler, a former Republican, now affiliates with the Democratic Party.

Walmart has routinely shuttered stores over the last several years, including in 2016, when it closed 28 stores in Texas because they were too close to other Walmart locations. This year, the retailer is closing more stores, from Portland to Washington, DC.

Theft at retailers has received more attention as trade groups have reported an increase in crime in the last few years. They say that the problem isn’t individual shoplifters but organized retail crime that involves multiple thieves taking large quantities of goods from stores.

Walgreens, for instance, has had to deal with groups of people taking beauty products from its stores, CFO James Kehoe said on an investor call in January 2022.

But one year later, Kehoe told investors that theft rates had dropped in 2022. He added that the company “cried too much” about organized retail crime initially.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC in December that Walmart would close stores and raise prices unless theft at its stores slowed down. 

One store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is set to close this week. A Walmart spokesperson told Insider: “There is no single cause for why a store closes.” 

But shoppers at the store said that shoplifting had become a problem at the location in recent years. The spokesperson did not comment specifically on whether crime at the store factored into the closure decision.

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