Chicago Walmart stores closing: Why some big box stores can't turn a profit in urban areas

Walmart closing 4 Chicago stores in Chatham, Kenwood, Lakeview and Little Village

Sarah Schulte Image
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Chicago Walmart store closings: Why some big box stores can't turn a profit in urban areas
Walmart said the closings are due to a lack of profits, theft and security issues.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Walmart announced Tuesday that the company is closing four stores in Chicago.

A retail expert spoke with ABC7 about why some big box stores can't turn a profit in urban areas.

It was a lengthy fight against the unions to land Chicago's first Walmart at North Ave and Cicero. The West Side big box store has been open since 2006, but 37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts said it hasn't been easy. She fought hard to get the store in her ward and has worked even harder to keep it.

"We'll go in and work with the store managers and we know when store managers change, we know when new employees come in, we know when shelves are not clean," Ald. Mitts said.

While Mitts' store was spared, Walmart announced four other Chicago locations are closing on Sunday, including a superstore in Chatham and three neighborhood markets in East Lakeview, Little Village and Bronzeville. Lack of profits, theft and security issues are some of the reasons behind the decision.

"Instead of looking at the bottom line, I think these retailers need to focus on where did they drop the ball," said Donnavieve Smith, associate professor of marketing at North Central College.

Ald. Mitts said communication between corporate executives, the community and the store is vital to keep these locations open. After Walmart reopened stores following looting in 2020, Mitt's said her store and others have been hanging on like a thread.

"It's not a loss we want to have in our ward, so we will do whatever we need to do to to make it work, whether it's coming up with a new vision or working on vision already in place," said Dr. Elizabeth Lockhart, with the 37th Ward executive committee.

Alderman-Elect Ronnie Mosley, 21st Ward, is beginning his new job with the loss of the Chatham Walmart in his ward.

"We have to figure out going forward, how do we have the best environment that keeps us thriving," Alderman-Elect Mosley said.

From a veteran alderman to a new one, Ald. Mitts said Mosley shouldn't give up on keeping the Walmart in his ward open. She suggests meeting with Walmart executives first and if that doesn't work, make some noise with protests.