What media missed on Walmarts Portland exit

By William MacKenzie
Oregon writer

In late February, Walmart announced it would be closing a batch of its US stores, including its two stores in Portland, OR at 4200 82nd Ave. SE and 1123 N Hayden Meadows on March 24, 2022. Dr. Multiple media have subsequently reported on the Portland closures, initially focusing on the loss of employee’s jobs and the company’s assertion that the closures were due to “several factors,” including profitability concerns.

The 82nd Ave. store will close to the public on 3/24/2023. All 379 employees at the facility will be terminated effective June 02, 2023. The Hayden Meadows store will close to the public on 3/24/2023. All 201 employees at the facility will be terminated effective June 02, 2023.

On March 4, a Twitter contributor, Evan Watson, observed that the tone of media coverage began to shift when Fox Business put out a story headlined, Walmart to shutter Portland locations just months after CEO’s warnings on crime.

Fox said a Walmart spokesperson told Fox News Digital “…there is no single cause for why a store closes. We consider many factors, including current and projected financial performance, location, population, customer needs, and the proximity of other nearby stores when making these difficult decisions.”

But Fox chose to also highlight that the closure announcements for the Portland stores and multiple others across the country came “…just a few months after the Walmart CEO warned stores could close and prices could increase in light of sky-high retail crimes affecting stores across the country.”

“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in December on CNBC, Fox reported. “He added that “prices will be higher and/or stores will close” if authorities don’t crack down on prosecuting shoplifting crimes.”

Fox went on to note that Walmart’s announcement came after other Portland stores had closed, citing crime as a reason, including a Nike store that shut down following rampant shoplifting incidents and a Cracker Barrel that shut down with employees citing security issues. Fox reported one store that shut down in November 2022, Rains PDX, had posted a note on the shop’s doors after a string of break-ins saying, “Our city is in peril. Small businesses (and large) cannot sustain doing business, in our city’s current state. We have no protection, or recourse, against the criminal behavior that goes unpunished.”

The crime connection to the Portland Walmart closure was then also picked up on The NY Post. Yahoo and local TV stations affiliated with KPTV.

Next up was Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, no doubt stimulated by the crime connection, who jumped into the fray with a tweet: “All Portland Walmart stores to close in late March. This is what happens when cities refuse to enforce the rule of law. It allows the mob to take over…”

This spurred Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to put in his two cents, Tweeting, “Governor Abbott, are the dozens of Walmart stores that have closed in Texas in recent years all communities that “refuse to enforce the rule of law?” The retail industry is changing and retail theft is a national issue.”

And of course. dozens of people responded to Wheeler’s Tweet.

What no media mentioned, however, is the diversity of Walmart’s workforce affected by the closures or the impact of the closures on Walmart’s customers, most of whom are the lower-income Portlanders progressive political leaders always claim to be so concerned about.

I don’t have a breakdown of the workforce at the two Portland stores, but a recent analysis of Walmart’s total workforce showed that 56were women, with 42% of those are part of management and 42% of the total workforce were people of color, with 31% of them part of management.

As for shoppers’ income, analyses by Business Insider, Kantar Media; and Statista show that, although more higher income Americans have been gravitating to Walmart groceries and other items in the current inflationary environment, more than a quarter of Walmart shoppers have an annual income of $25,000 or less and the next quarter have an annual income of just $25,000 – $49,900.

Walmart Shoppers by Income

$25,000 or less: 26.1%

$25,000 to 49,900:  26.8%

$50,000 to 74,900:  18.3%

$75,000 to 99,900:  11%

$100,000 or more: 17.4%

Why do lower income Americans shop at Walmart? Because generally they save more of their hard-earned dollars there, particularly on generics and Walmart’s store brands.

“…in general, most shoppers will find that groceries at Walmart can cost less overall, even for higher-end brands that will cost significantly more elsewhere, which means if you’re on a tighter budget, grocery shopping at Walmart can help you ensure your dollar goes further,” says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com.

And the savings can be significant.

A November 2022 Consumers’ Checkbook review of spending at Washington area grocery chains and stores concluded that a family that spends $250 per week at the supermarket, could save $2,080 per year by shopping at Walmart versus an all-store average.

In other words, the loss of these two Walmart stores is a bigger blow to Portland than the media has been saying. Politicians need to make note of that.