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A retail exodus

Several retail giants — including Nordstrom, H&M, Marshall's, Gap, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and Office Depot — have announced they’re pulling the plug on some San Francisco locations.

When Whole Foods announced in mid-April that it was temporarily closing its store at Trinity Place in the city's Tenderloin District, a spokesperson for the grocer expressed concerns about “the safety of our team members” due to criminal activity near the store.

These issues, while significant in San Francisco, are not isolated to the Bay Area.

According to a study by the National Retail Federation, organized retail crime is growing in both scope and complexity across the U.S.

To combat this, Home Depot CEO Ted Decker announced in June that the home improvement company would be “investing in more security guards” to protect the safety of its employees and customers. This sadly follows the deaths of two Home Depot employees during theft incidents.

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Concern for commercial real estate

Many cities have seen retail store closures in recent months. Insider recently reported that as many as 2,373 major retail stores are set to close this year across the U.S — not all down to crime, but some due to dwindling foot traffic in the age of online shopping and economic factors like rising interest rates.

These trends are causing headaches for commercial real estate investors, since they present more challenges for the already shaky and debt-ridden sector.

In particular, office real estate is under immense strain due to the rise in remote and hybrid work during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising borrowing costs are also squeezing property owners and complicating real estate financing.

In recent months, high-profile investors — including Elon Musk — have sounded the alarm about a potential market crash.

Real estate investing expert Patrick Carroll said the commercial real estate market is tumbling toward a crash that could be as devastating as the 2008 crisis.

“The party’s over, unfortunately,” he said. “The office market’s going to be destroyed, hotels are going to be destroyed — it’s going to be ugly.”

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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