Popular outdoor recreation retailer REI is closing its store in Portland, Oregon, due to the city’s soaring crime rates.
The company announced on Monday that it is shuttering the Pearl District store located in downtown Portland due to increasing local crime.
REI also revealed that it has suffered retail loss from store sales at the location.
In an email sent to members, the company expressed its sadness over the decision but explained that the Portland location experienced its highest number of break-ins and thefts despite actions to provide extra security.
“The safety of our employees, members, and customers is always our number one priority,” spokesperson Megan Behrbaum said.
“Last year, REI Portland had its highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades, despite our actions and investment to provide extra security.”
The company informed its more than 150 employees of the upcoming closure, as their lease expires in February 2024.
Behrbaum highlighted that the decision “does not reflect the hard work and dedication of our Portland team, nor the overall health of the co-op,” she said.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been over 10,745 reported crimes against Portland residents and 62,870 reported property-related crimes, according to data released by the Portland Police Bureau.
Oregon legislators were considering a package of bills, SB318 and SB340, introduced to legislation last month, that would help the state become more prepared and equip to solve the high amount of organized theft and charge individuals with stricter penalties.
“These individuals are targeting a large amount of merchandise at one time—losses from anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000,” Philip Smith, a retail crime investigator for Fred Meyer and vice president of the Organized Retail Crime Association of Oregon, told lawmakers at the time.
“As a result of these actions retailers are now starting to close doors or relocating to combat these issues.”
Retailers throughout the Portland area have voiced their concerns over the growing theft problem around the city and say that city officials have been slow to respond.
The company says it has been unsuccessful in working with its landlord to address safety issues at the store and has “outgrown” the current space it has occupied since 2004, to continue providing its desired level of customer service and employee experience.
“The extra security measures required to keep customers and employees safe are not financially sustainable,” Behrbaum said.
Other major retailers like Starbucks, Walmart, and Nike closed stores in the Portland area last year due to safety concerns and increasing theft.
“We continue to equip our partners with the training, policies, and information they need to address the societal challenges that cross our store thresholds every day,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement to local FOX 12.
“But when these efforts aren’t enough to ensure the safety of our partners, we will make the decision to close a store, regardless of its revenue or union status.”
Despite the Pearl District closure, the company remains dedicated to serving its community in the area and is continuously evaluating opportunities for new locations.
“While we do not believe a downtown Portland location will be possible in the near term, our stores in Tualatin, Hillsboro, and Clackamas remain open and ready to outfit you with the gear and advice you need to enjoy life outside,” the company wrote in its email.
“The company is dedicated to continuing to serve and provide for its loyal customers until its doors officially close in 2024.
“Until that time, we look forward to continuing to serve the outdoor community,” Behrbaum said.
Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office issued a statement regarding REI’s closure.
“Mayor Wheeler’s staff and leadership at the Portland Police Bureau have met with REI’s leadership team and store representatives for several months to find ways we can collaborate on addressing retail theft, vandalism, and other safety issues,” the statement reads.
“The Portland Police Bureau and other public safety partners worked with REI directly to execute a retail theft mission at their Pearl location and developed proactive safety measures, including authorizing temporary security camera trailers at their loading dock and protective measures toward the front of their store.”
“Mayor Wheeler is committed to further supporting REI to help ensure we retain their business in Portland and help them succeed,” the statement concludes.
“All options are on the table as we explore paths forward.”
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