business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

We've had some conversations here recently about the troubling situations in many cities that are forcing retailers to make necessary decisions.

The latest example:  REI, which sent out the following email to customers of its Portland, Oregon, store:

Dear REI Member,

We are sad to share that our store in Portland’s Pearl District will close early next year.

For nearly 20 years, REI has proudly served our members and the outdoor community from this location. We’ve had a presence in Oregon for over half of our 85-year history, opening our third store nationally at Jantzen Beach in 1976.

The safety of our employees, members and customers is always our number one priority. In recent years, Portland has been dealing with increased crime in our neighborhood and beyond. Last year, REI Portland had its highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades, despite actions to provide extra security.

In addition, we have outgrown this location and as a result are not able to provide the level of customer and employee experience we strive for at REI. For these reasons, we are no longer confident in our ability to serve you in this location.

We remain dedicated to serving our community in the area and are continuously evaluating opportunities for new locations. 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 with the gear and advice you need to enjoy life outside.

The store’s closure will not impact our wide range of day tours and classes available through our Experiences team, nor our commitment to supporting nonprofit partners in the region.

We look forward to continuing to serve you from our Pearl District store through early 2024.

Sincerely,

Your friends at REI


I've shopped at that store.  I know the neighborhood well, from my summer adjunctivities at Portland State University.  It was the area, not too many years ago, to which I hoped to move.  I'd continue doing MNB, do some more teaching at PSU, and enjoy the Pacific Northwest that, in my opinion, is the most beautiful part of the country, with the best food and wine.

Emails like this break my heart.  Emails like this have broken Mrs. Content Guy's spirit - there's no way she's moving there now.  Eye-Opening emails like this one illustrate just how difficult a road some many cities have in front of them.

Portland is said to be one of several cities in the running for a Major League Baseball expansion team.  I must admit to being conflicted about this.  On the one hand, a team would bring much needed investment to the city.  But I also believe that until Portland can figure out ways to deal with the significant issues that face it, making such investments could be problematic.