Is closing stores the best solution to Starbucks’ safety concerns?
Starbucks, citing safety concerns, said it will permanently close 16 locations nationwide before the end of July while instituting new procedures to ensure the wellbeing of employees.
The locations include six each in Seattle and Los Angeles, two in Portland, and one each in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Workers can transfer to nearby cafes.
In a letter last week to employees, two Starbucks’ SVPs of operations, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, wrote that staffers are “seeing first-hand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use and more. With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores, too. We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot.”
The letter stated stores may adjust formats, modify hours, close restrooms or close permanently “where safety in the third place is no longer possible.” More safety training, including when to call 911 and “active shooter” procedures, are planned. The letter read, “Simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work.”
In a video of a company meeting, Howard Schultz, founder, criticized officials at the local, state and federal levels for failing to fight crime and address mental illness that he said were the catalysts for the closures. Specifically, Schultz called out drug use in store bathrooms.
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” said Mr. Schultz. “America has become unsafe.”
Mr. Schultz, who returned as interim CEO in April, has made safety a priority.
Employees at about 300 of Starbucks’ U.S. stores have filed to unionize since last December. Of the 16 set to close, two have unionized and another has petitioned to do so. Starbucks denied allegations that the closures are tied to unionization efforts.
Last week, 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters encouraged local Los Angeles franchises to close after five armed robberies at locations in the area left two people dead. Last October, Walgreens closed five San Francisco stores frequently targeted by organized theft rings.
- Message to Starbucks partners: Safety in our stores – Starbucks
- Starbucks closing 16 stores over employee-safety concerns – The Wall Street Journal
- Starbucks says it will close 16 US stores out of concern for employee safety – The Guardian
- ‘America has become unsafe’: Starbucks CEO discusses issues that led to 16 store closures – WJIA
- Should Starbucks end its open bathroom policy? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Starbucks’ move to close 16 locations as likely a measured and necessary move, a political statement, an anti-unionization ploy or something else? What other options could Starbucks and other retailers explore for stores continually facing disruptive incidents?