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REI Blames Costly Crime Wave for Pulling Out of Portland

REI Co-op announced it will be closing its only store in Portland at the end of February 2024 when the building’s lease is up in Oregon’s biggest city.

The outdoor retailer blamed a crime wave of “break-ins and thefts” that exceeded all-time highs in 2022 and culminated on Black Friday when a car crashed through the Pearl District store’s front doors in a smash-and-grab attempt when the co-op was closed for an “Opt-Outside Day,” which REI has observed since 2015 to contradict consumerism.

It was also the third burglary attempt that week.

“The safety of our employees, members and customers is always our No. 1 priority,” the company said in a newsletter sent out to co-op members on Monday, citing investments in “extra security. “In recent years, Portland has been dealing with increased crime in our neighborhood and beyond.”

REI noted it is keeping stores open in the suburbs of Tualatin, Hillsboro and Clackamas, but said that operating in downtown Portland would not “be possible in the near term,” and that it has “outgrown” the Pearl District location.

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According to REI’s website, however, the Pearl District location’s nearly 36,000 square feet dwarfs the 29,000-square-foot Tualatin and Clackamas stores and the Hillsboro’s 26,000-square-foot site.

The move comes after Walmart shut down its last two brick-and-mortar Portland stores and even Oregon-born sneaker titan Nike closed its downtown shop, proposing to the city it could re-open if it was allowed to hire off-duty police officers empowered to arrest shoplifters.

In a statement obtained by Sourcing Journal and first reported by local outlet KPTV following the REI announcement, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he and the Portland Police Bureau have been working with REI directly to address the issue of retail theft to include “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 continued. “All options are on the table as we explore paths forward.”

This includes a shared commitment to hiring more police officers and getting them on the streets more quickly. “The City’s Street Services Coordination Center has worked to cleanup areas near the retail store to ensure customers and staff can safely visit the location,” the statement added.

In response to being perhaps the American city most afflicted by shoplifting, law enforcement officials have redoubled efforts to fight organized retail crime.

Last Friday on the city’s north side, a “retail theft suppression mission” at Jantzen Beach—home to the first REI location in Oregon in 1976 before it moved to the Pearl District in 2004—recovered more than $2,000 worth of stolen property as well as five arrests.

At the state level, the Oregon Senate passed and sent on to the House SB 340, which would increase penalties to include jail time for retail theft. Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing to vote on SB 900 which would grant $5 million to fight retail theft as well as SB 318, which would appropriate state money to the U.S. Department of Justice to study Oregon’s retail theft problem and provide potential solutions.