Target to close 9 stores — including NYC location — citing ‘theft’ and employee ‘safety’
By Lisa Fickenscher and Carl Campanile
Published Sep. 26, 2023, 3:50 p.m. ET
Target is pulling up stakes in Harlem because of rampant theft and violence — one of nine stores the discount chain plans to shutter in crime-riddled cities nationwide, the company said Tuesday.
The big-box retailer — which opened the East Harlem location to great fanfare in 2010 as a revitalization of the neighborhood — announced it will close all nine stores on Oct. 21.
“We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” the Minneapolis-based chain said in a statement.
The other locations to be shuttered are in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Ore. — all cities with progressive prosecutors who refuse to go after shoplifters despite the growing scourge of organized retail theft since the pandemic.
The stores will close on Oct. 21 and span four states, including New York, which will lose its East Harlem location at 517 E. 117th St.
Shoplifting complaints at the East River Plaza retail complex — which also includes Costco and Marshalls — have soared more than 40% since the pandemic, according to NYPD complaint data analyzed by The Post. There were 665 complaints in 2022, compared to 468 in 2019. There were 289 complaints lodged through June of this year, according to the most recent data available.
The spate of recent robberies — and the lack of prosecutions by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg — has hurt the company’s bottom line and put employees’ safety at risk, the company said.
“Despite our efforts, unfortunately, we continue to face fundamental challenges to operating these stores safely and successfully,” the company said.
Target said it invested “heavily” in strategies to stop the shoplifting in its stores, adding more security guards and “theft deterrent tools” but to no avail.
Target’s efforts to fight crime included training its employees and security teams on how to “protect themselves and de-escalate potential safety issues” as well as partnering with the US Department of Homeland Security and advocating for the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act in Congress.
“Closing is a problem. Target was a staple in the neighborhood for many years. That’s a lot of jobs,” Mark Viverito told The Post. “Target provided products that were at a price point important to the community.”
Target did not say how many workers at the East Harlem location will be laid off, or if they will be transferred to another location in the city.
A worker at the store confirmed to The Post they were informed by Target about the closure on Tuesday.
“That’s horrible! Target is only one block away from me. Sad to see all this going on,” said Adam Clayton Powell IV, former state assemblyman representing East Harlem.
“I’m disappointed to hear the news today about the closure of the East Harlem Target,” Diana Ayala, deputy speaker of the City Council, said in a statement. “This store has been a lifeline for many East Harlem residents, providing jobs and stability for their families. The thought of the hardship this closure will bring to those who relied on these jobs is disheartening.”
When Target opened the E. Harlem store at 517 E. 117th St. in the summer of 2010 — greeting shoppers with a massive “Hello Harlem” sign — it represented the culmination of a decade of lobbying city officials and wooing residents to allow a big-box store to gain a foothold amid the neighborhood’s mom-and-pop businesses.
The company’s efforts to win over Harlemites included charitable donations, including renovating a public library and carrying merchandise designed by local artists, according to reports at the time.
The store also carried a “generous selection” of Spanish language and Ebony greeting cards, Gospel and Latin music and Spanish language books and movies, religious candles and multicultural dolls aimed the neighborhood’s predominantly Latino population.
Target was among the first major retailers to publicly blame crime for a deterioration in its financial results, with its chief executive, Brian Cornell, sounding the alarm in May when he said the company would be closely monitoring the “safety” of its employees as it weighs its options.
In August, Cornell said during an earnings call that “violence and threats of violence” surged 120% during the first five months of the year.
“Our team continues to face an unacceptable amount of retail theft and organized retail crime,” Cornell said at the time. “Unfortunately, safety incidents associated with theft are moving in the wrong direction.”