REI to Close Pearl District Store, Saying Break-Ins and Thefts Escalated

Crime—and a failed negotiation with the landlord—drove the decision, REI says.

REI store in Bellevue, Wash. (Colleen Michaels / Shutterstock/Shutterstock)

Outdoor retailer REI said it would close its Pearl District store early next year, becoming the latest retailer to abandon the city. The company attributed its decision to a rise in break-ins and thefts.

“Last year, REI Portland had its highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades, despite actions to provide extra security,” REI said in an email to members. “The safety of our employees, members and customers is always our No. 1 priority. In recent years, Portland has been dealing with increased crime in our neighborhood and beyond.”

But crime alone didn’t determine the stores fate, REI spokeswomaon Megan Behrbaum said.

“In addition, we have outgrown our current space, and the building requires significant investment to address issues that we have been unable to reach agreement on with the landlord,” Behrbaum said in an email to WW. “As a result, we are not able to provide the level of customer and employee experience we strive for at REI.”

The Pearl District store has been open for 20 years. REI is based in Sumner, Wash.

“While we do not believe a downtown Portland location will be possible in the near term, our stores in Tualatin, Hillsboro and Clackamas remain open and ready to outfit you,” REI said.

REI follows Walmart in abandoning Portland. The big box retailer closed two Portland stores, one in Hayden Meadows and one at 4200 SE 82nd Ave., this year. Walmart didn’t give a reason.

Starbucks closed locations last October in Portland, including one in the Pearl District that was four blocks east of REI, at Northwest 11th Avenue and Lovejoy Street. After it was announced, two baristas confirmed the impending closure to WW, saying management told them the closure was due to safety concerns.

“We routinely review the partner and customer experience in our stores to ensure the store is thriving, partners feel supported and we are meeting customer needs,” a Starbucks spokesman said at the time. “Where safety issues in and around a store continue to jeopardize the well-being of our partners, we work with deep care and urgency to take action.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has been working to keep REI in town, spokesman Cody Bowman said.

“Mayor Wheeler’s staff and leadership at the Portland Police Bureau have met with REI’s leadership team and store representatives for several months to find ways we can collaborate on addressing retail theft, vandalism, and other safety issues,” Bowman said in an email.

PPB executed a “retail theft mission” at the store and parked temporary security-camera trailers at REI’s loading dock to deter theft, Bowman said.

“Mayor Wheeler is committed to further supporting REI to help ensure we retain their business in Portland and help them succeed,” Bowman said. “All options are on the table.”

Correction: This story originally said that Starbucks declined to comment on the October closing. It had sent a comment to WW, which is included in this story. WW regrets the error.

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