San Francisco suffers mass retail exodus: half the stores in the downtown hub have shut down

Originally published at: San Francisco suffers mass retail exodus: half the stores in the downtown hub have shut down | Boing Boing


I’m not too worried about the Whole Foods closing, we still have eight of them. Also as much as the retailers like to blame crime, if the rent wasn’t astronomical, you know they would stay where they are.


This Mastodon post captures how this reporting is often kind of upside-down: - I don’t give a shit about shoplifting. And I especially don’t give a shit about people stealing food. Smh

Instead of journos reporting that increasingly high prices and stagnant wages are leading to desperation, they say shit like " self-checkout theft is causing problems for retailers."

Problems. For retailers.


I doubt it’s related to crime, it seems to be happening everywhere as far as I can tell, regardless of crime rates. Most main streets around me have turned into restaurants, coffee shops, and, weirdly, ATMs.

Restaurants and coffee shops are among the few things that can’t be replaced by Amazon.

I think Covid just accelerated Americans’ desire to buy everything online.

Related, I think the loss of malls and other spaces as teen hangout spots is contributing to the rise in depression (although it’s self-perpetuating, as teens’ reluctance to go out is causing malls to close.)



Also, I was in that area for business a good bit in 2019 and it was already pretty vacant. The nearby small strip mall had more business. The giant mall era looks like it might be ending, finally.


So the chief economist is reporting some slight gains compared to the end of covid? Wow.


Current levels of foot traffic into the stores simply won’t support current rents. The foot traffic is down for a mix of the reasons mentioned, so every store that has a lease coming up for renewal has to seriously look at trends and see whether continuing in the current location makes economic sense anymore. Of course the landlords are stuck between their mortgages and reduced demand for retail space.


Well, now that Greedflation is letting up as the greedpigs have made back all the money they lost during the pandemic by overcharging everybody, everything is coming up roses see?


Question - what are the rent rates like in the area? Isn’t SF really high rent everywhere? Maybe at some point they are being priced out


Increases in the murder and robbery rate, coupled with an increase in homelessness and drug use near stores, have played a part in businesses’ decisions to relocate.

That’s a cover story. While crime and squalor are certainly bad in SF, this comes down to a mix of corporate incompetence and over-expansion and greedy, short-sighted retail landlords who refuse to recognise the changes brought on by Covid and Amazon.

That and small personal care spas (nails, lashes, massage, etc.) and cannabis dispensaries. Those, and the usual mix of banks and corporate pharmacies, are the most common remaining tenants in large cities. The landlords in the worst trouble are the ones with large and/or multi-level retail spaces.


The crime and murder rate according to news media:

rocket launch GIF by Sandia National Labs

The actual crime and murder rate:

Music Video Escalator GIF by Young Paris


Since the 90’s, for sure, and still significantly lower. Last couple of years were, however, a reversal of the trend.


SF doesn’t even crack the top 75


It didn’t even make the top 175 last year.


Violent crime overall continues to decrease:

Murder rate spiked in 2020 but to a lower level than previously:

After the 2020 spike, murder rate recovered to previous trend in 2021 and 2022, with 2023 lower yet YTD. Slow rate of increase over time primarily driven by firearm availability:


I was just reading that SF apartment rents have gone down fairly precipitously since COVID (and vacancies are still high), so I suspect commercial rents will follow, if they aren’t in the process already.

(Unfortunately the new rents mean that I’m now living in the US’s most expensive city, San Jose, as the rents didn’t go down that much, unlike SF and NY…)


Whenever you read one of these stories, just realize that the actual reason they’re trying desperately to cover up is bad management. They obviously did not have their companies set up to weather any downturn, typically for these companies overbuilt or leased - just too many stores. But if that’s the reason someone’s bonus is in trouble, so it’s some external forces that could never in a bazillion years be anticipated.


Hey neighbor.
We did just start a program to tax store fronts that remain vacant for a period of time, I really hope that will help fill the spaces. The purpose obviously is not to raise tax revenue off of property owners but to help guide them on better decisions regarding the use of their empty retail spaces.


That’s one of the things I see locally, from big enclosed malls to strips. At least 1/3 of the stores are vacant because the property companies get better perks (probably tax breaks) from letting the storefronts remain vacant that renting them to businesses at a reasonable rate. One of the local rental agencies is notorious for demanding 15% of your gross in addition to rent.

Rather than giving perpetual tax breaks, after a set number of years vacancies should lose the tax breaks.


That’s smart. We really needed that in San Jose, given how much empty office and retail space we’ve always had downtown. (Now they’re just giving up and converting offices and business parks into residential buildings.)

I feel some mixture of amused and disgruntled to now be in the most expensive city - reading about rents going down in SF, I thought, “Well that makes sense, people don’t want to live there so much anymore - wait a minute, no one ever wanted to live in San Jose, so how come we’re more expensive!?”


That 8% murder increase? Total number of 2 - from 26 to 28. I’m gonna guess that two more strangers getting killed somewhere within city limits isn’t changing peoples’ downtown shopping habits.

But I want to know who’s constantly pushing the “CRIME’S OUT OF CONTROL IN SF!!” narrative and what their upside is.