Many Chicagoans were shocked by retail giant Walmart’s announcement that it’s closing four stores this weekend — fully half of its locations in the city.
Elected officials, clergy and residents came together Thursday morning, calling on Walmart to reverse its decision and urging shoppers to boycott all the store’s locations if it goes through with the shutdowns.
State Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) said his office has been inundated with calls since Tuesday’s announcement of the shutdowns.
“Seniors who are crying out, saying, ‘Where do I go for my medicine?’ Mothers who are talking about their children, saying, ‘How do I feed my children?’” Sims said.
Walmart announced it would shutter locations in Chatham, Kenwood, Little Village and Lakeview, giving shoppers and employees just a few days’ notice.
“It seems like the ones they’re closing are in the Black and Brown community,” said activist and Chatham Walmart customer Pam Bosley. “This one is busy, so I don’t know what the issue is.”
In a statement, the company said: “These stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years.”
Demonstrators gathered Thursday outside the Walmart Supercenter in Chatham, which was closed for months in 2020 after being damaged during unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
When Walmart announced the reopening of its Chicago stores in 2020, it came with major investments — including a workforce training academy and a primary care health center.
“This commitment that we’re making is big, and so we’re intending to be here to stay,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said at the time. “These stores in many cases are not profitable, but there’s more to this equation than just profit.”
Less than three years later, Walmart said: “These efforts have not materially improved the fundamental business challenges our stores are facing.”
It wasn’t just shoppers caught off guard. Aziz Rupshi ran the Subway inside the Chatham Walmart for almost five years and said the news came as a shock.
“You’ve put in your hard work, effort, into this location, through the pandemic, through the riots, through everything, and then somebody to come just tell you in five days you’ve got to go,” Rupshi said.
The company said it will keep its pharmacies open for up to 30 days, will work to find replacement tenants for the spaces it’s pulling out of and will transfer employees to other stores. But local leaders are calling on Walmart to change course — and threatened a boycott if it doesn’t.
“If Walmart doesn’t invest in the people here, we will disinvest across the entire nation,” said 6th Ward Ald.-elect William Hall.
A separate group of protesters is planning a demonstration outside the Walmart in Little Village at 4 p.m. Friday.