President and CEO Ron Fong penned a letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle in defense of retailers who take a risk to invest in and revitalize communities that lack adequate grocery stores.
After the Trinity Whole Foods store, located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, closed in April due to rampant retail theft and safety concerns, the Chronicle published an opinion piece blaming the retailer for taking a chance to reinvigorate the community with a full-service grocery store. In response, Fong’s letter to the editor highlights the severe, everyday impacts of unchecked retail theft on grocers and calls for common-sense retail theft reform on behalf of California’s grocery community.
Read the full letter to the editor below, or view online here.
Whole Foods did the right thing by opening at Civic Center. Why closing is also right
Regarding “Whole Foods says its Civic Center location closed over safety concerns. That’s not the whole story” (Opinion, SFChronicle.com, April 25): As president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, the most common question I receive is, “How do I get a grocery store in my neighborhood?”
However, in this opinion article, grocers are blamed for taking a chance to invest in and revitalize a community in need of a grocery store. By this logic, grocers would never take the risk to improve communities that lack adequate grocery stores and food deserts would remain underserved.
When Whole Foods announced it was opening this location in 2018, the move was lauded for putting a full-service grocery store near tens of thousands of residents. But now that the store has closed due to rampant theft and crime, Nuala Bishari and Soleil Ho explain away these issues in favor of a narrative that the company shouldn’t have bet on the neighborhood in the first place.
The authors also argue that the store’s layout was partially to blame for the excessive shoplifting, insinuating that more products behind glass will prevent theft. Unchecked retail theft has increasingly forced grocers to put products under lock and key, and this creates a less-than-ideal store environment for customers.
Unfortunately, this is the everyday reality for grocers in California, which is why the grocery community has called for common-sense and reasonable retail theft reform.