Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Retail & Industry
Published on October 12, 2021
Walgreens closing five more SF stores in Outer Mission, Sunset, Hayes ValleyImage: Google Street View

It was 20 months ago when this website asked the question Why are so many San Francisco Walgreens locations closing? A company spokesperson told us it was part of a “transformational cost management program,” and indeed, the company had previously announced plans to close 200 stores nationwide. Since then they’ve also closed a Polk Gulch Walgreens, and today, KRON4 and others are reporting that five more San Francisco Walgreens locations will close, but the company is singing a different tune as to why.


“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said in a statement. “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.”


The Walgreens stores closing, and their closing dates, are listed below:

  • 2550 Ocean Ave. (November 8)
  • 4645 Mission St. (November 11)
  • 745 Clement St. (November 15)
  • 300 Gough St. (November 15)
  • 3400 Cesar Chavez St. (November 17)


The usual suspects are of course crowing that this is all District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s fault. Somehow, even the New York Post has a feature on the closing of five measly Walgreens stores, located 3,000 miles from that paper’s city. But it is surely true that organized shoplifting does exist in San Francisco. Simply stroll around the 24th Street BART station, and you’ll see several vendors selling retail items that, at best, “fell off a truck” and were clearly meant for established retailers’ shelves.  


But there are reasons to be skeptical of the claims that Walgreens woes are all because of San Francisco shoplifting. Again, the closures were announced in 2019 because of declining revenue, with the company not announcing locations, and we are learning the locations now. Consider that the 3400 Cesar Chavez St. Walgreens is one of three Walgreens in a seven-block stretch of Missions Street. They may just be saturated in this town. The Chronicle reported in May that there were 53 Walgreens in San Francisco, which even if you lose a few locations, is still quite a lot for a seven-by-seven-mile city.


Moreover, Walgreens has much bigger items on their plate, and a sudden need to curry favor with right-wing media. Conservative sites are up in arms over an implausible claim that two Indiana children are suffering from heart conditions after a Walgreens there accidentally gave them COVID-19 vaccines instead of a flu shot.