The shopping centre of San Francisco is becoming a dead town. Crime isn’t the only reason for escaping.

In May, the San Francisco Standard found that almost half of the stores in the city’s downtown shopping area have closed since 2019.

In June, the 70-store downtown Westfield Mall said that it would stop making payments on a $558 million loan, this meant that the mall would no longer own the mall, and it was unclear what would happen to the complex. The trend has been called a “retail exodus,” and people have blamed crime and homelessness for it.

People aren’t walking around downtown as much as they used to because some shoppers don’t feel as safe as they used to. They also said that sales could have been faster at some stores, partly due to a long-term trend away from brick-and-mortar shops that sped up during the pandemic.

Experts say that the rise of remote work, which is especially strong in the Bay Area’s tech industry, has also reduced the number of office workers who used to drive downtown for lunchtime business and after-work shopping.

Whole Foods closed its main store in downtown San Francisco in April to “ensure worker safety,” all employees were relocated to other stores in the area.

Moving Markets

Old Navy shared a message from its parent company, Gap when its downtown San Francisco store closed in May. The statement said that Old Navy is always looking at its real estate portfolio to ensure it has a healthy fleet of shops that can give customers the best experience possible.

Overall, crime statistics show mixed results. As of Sunday, the most recent date for which data is available, the number of murders this year is up nearly 8% compared to last year, and the number of robberies is up about 12%. These numbers come from the San Francisco Police Department. Compared to the same time the previous year, however, the number of rapes has dropped by almost 24%, while the number of attacks has dropped by nearly 5%.

From the beginning of 2019 until Sunday, killings are 27% higher than before the pandemic, but robberies are almost 6% lower.

Denise Forbes, who co-founded California Girl Jewellery with her sister, said she saw more homeless people around the store’s site in downtown San Francisco years before the pandemic.

She said that when the pandemic started, the problems “piled up and up.” In 2020, the company’s sales dropped by 80%, partly because of a shutdown caused by a pandemic, which forced a complete switch to e-commerce. She said that drug use and homelessness increased when people stopped shopping near the store.

During the pandemic, downtown foot traffic dropped sharply, which made people think there was a higher safety risk. This, in turn, stopped people from coming downtown, which was needed to calm people’s fears, said Rose of Advance SF. He said that even though people are slowly returning to work in offices, especially in the tech sector, this trend has stayed the same.

“A huge drop in foot traffic means a big drop in sales,” Rose said.

San Francisco’s top economist Ted Egan, in most ways, San Francisco’s sales tax income grew faster than the state’s in the first three months of the year. During that time, casual eating receipts in San Francisco went up 23% when inflation was not considered, while they only went up 10% in the rest of the state. He also said that some retail types, like electronics and appliances, have grown enormously in the city this year.

He also said that Union Square’s sales were up 7.4% in the first three months of the year compared to the same time in 2022, when prices were not considered.

Egan said that crime is “a problem” for stores, and shoplifting is a big part. “During the pandemic, San Francisco’s economy took a big hit, and it’s been slow to get back on its feet,” Egan said.


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