Target announced the closure of nine stores across major U.S. cities, including two in Seattle, due to escalating concerns over crime and safety. The Seattle stores in Ballard and the U-District are set to shut their doors on October 21.
In a statement, Target expressed, “Theft and organized retail crime have threatened the safety of our team and guests, leading to unsustainable business operations.” Despite efforts to bolster safety measures, such as increasing security personnel and introducing theft-deterrent tools, the company found these measures insufficient.
The closures come against a backdrop of a 120% surge in crime incidents at Target’s nationwide stores during the first five months of 2023, as shared by Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell. Additionally, Target’s recent quarterly report showed a 5.4% decline in comparable sales and a 4.9% drop in revenue, amounting to $24.8 billion.
The National Retail Federation’s annual survey highlighted a concerning trend: U.S. retailers are adjusting operations in response to rising crime rates. Shoplifters have become more aggressive, with organized retail crime particularly rampant in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Renée Sunde, President of the Washington Retail Association, commented, emphasizing the need for urgent action at both state and local levels. “Retailers are now faced with the tough decision to close their doors due to growing safety concerns,” Sunde stated. She called for collaboration with local officials and cited recent policy efforts as positive steps forward but stressed the need for accelerated action to ensure the economic stability of businesses across the city and state. “The announcement today illustrates that more urgency is needed at the state and local level to reach commonsense solutions and craft laws that fulfill the promise of the government’s top priority to keep the public safe,” Sunde added.
Target’s own data paints a grim picture. Threats and assaults against its team members accounted for 55% of all security incidents in 2022. The company has been actively advocating for public policy changes, including supporting the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act, which proposes a multi-agency response to crime.
The recent closures in Seattle are not isolated incidents. Last year, Starbucks closed six Seattle stores, citing safety concerns, and Rite Aid has shut down nine Bartell stores in the area since September 2022.
As Target evaluates its next steps, the overarching message is clear: the safety of its team and guests is paramount. The company remains committed to finding solutions, but as crime rates and safety concerns rise, the future of retail in certain areas remains uncertain.