Walgreens has been no stranger to downsizing over the last few years. In 2015, the pharmacy chain closed around 200 stores to cut costs, and then in 2019, the company announced the closure of 200 more locations. But over the last year and a half, Walgreens has become an essential place of business during the pandemic, providing both vaccinations and COVID tests for people across the U.S. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to keep some Walgreens locations open. Recently, a rise in thefts has prompted the company to initiate the closure of several stores in one major city. Read on to find out where Walgreens is shutting its doors permanently in November.
Walgreens will soon be closing five San Francisco stores, a company spokesperson told SFGate on Oct. 12. The first store will close on Nov. 8, another on Nov. 11, two on Nov. 15, and the final location on Nov. 17. According to SFGate, Walgreens has decided to close these locations over shoplifting concerns that have had an impact on the company’s bottom line, as well as the safety of its employees and customers.
“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso told the news outlet. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”
Walgreens provides essential items, so it’s no surprise that this news is concerning to people in the community. Ahsha Safai, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 11, took to Twitter on Oct. 12 to say that he is “completely devastated” over the news that a Mission Street Walgreens will be one of the stores closing in the city.
“This Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families, and children for decades,” he wrote. “This closure will significantly impact this community.”
Safai added in a statement to SFGate, “This is a sad day for San Francisco. We can’t continue to let these anchor institutions close that so many people rely on.”
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Walgreens has already closed several stores in San Francisco over shoplifting concerns. The company closed a Walgreens location in the city on Nov. 11, 2020 over theft that had been happening for months, leaving the store’s shelves empty or near empty, the San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time. This location was losing an average of about $1,000 a day in merchandise as a result of shoplifting, according to the company. Walgreens has already closed at least 10 stores in San Francisco since 2019, per SFGate.
Kevin Greathouse, a security guard for a Walgreens location in San Francisco, told ABC 7 News in July that they are advised not to physically engage with those shoplifting. “It’s going to be lawsuits, obviously they don’t want ourselves or anybody else to get injured while we’re out here attempting to make these apprehensions and leave it to law enforcement,” he said. Greathouse added that he’s even been threatened with a knife by people. “I don’t have any intention of getting stabbed for $60 worth of stuff,” he said.
Longtime customer Sebastian Luke told the San Francisco Chronicle he’s seen clerks being verbally assaulted regularly. “The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens’ policy is to not get involved. They don’t want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just keep coming in and taking whatever they want,” Luke said.