T-Mobile Closes Flagship Store In Downtown San Francisco As Foot Traffic Plummets

T-Mobile recently shuttered the company’s flagship store in downtown San Francisco, a move which comes amid declining foot traffic and rising criminality in the California metropolis.

The telecommunications firm quietly shuttered its store in Union Square, an upscale department store and shopping hub in San Francisco, at least one month ago. Signs announcing the closure appeared in the windows of the store, which spans two stories and 17,000 square feet.

A spokesperson for T-Mobile said in a statement to SFGATE that the company has “reshaped” its “retail strategy.” Former employees at the Union Square location have been “offered roles within the company,” which continues to operate stores on Mission and Market streets.

News of the T-Mobile closure comes days after Nordstrom shuttered both of its department stores in downtown San Francisco even as the company expands in suburbs throughout the Bay Area. Whole Foods closed its flagship location in the downtown area last month, with reports indicating that rampant drug use and criminal activity from individuals near the store played a role in the closure.

Crime in San Francisco has indeed been blamed for severely diminishing quality of life and contributing to a mass exodus of residents and businesses. Pharmacy giant Walgreens closed several locations in the city two years ago, while technology retailer Best Buy has struggled with safety issues related to organized retail crime. Nearly 8% of current San Francisco residents plan to move elsewhere within the next year, surging past levels seen in every other major American city, according to data from the Census Bureau.

The downtown portion of San Francisco has accordingly suffered from declining foot traffic in the years since government lockdowns sequestered employees in their homes and apartments. San Francisco Democratic Mayor London Breed endorsed amendments to the city’s building codes last week such that commercial structures can be transitioned into residential housing.

“The challenges facing downtown require us to imagine what is possible and create the foundation for a stronger, more resilient future,” Breed said in a statement. “We can create more opportunities to fill our empty buildings, whether that’s to create housing or making it easier to fill office and retail space. These changes shouldn’t be something that requires granting exceptions through lengthy paperwork and exhaustive public hearings. We need to make the process easier for getting our buildings active and full.”

San Francisco has lagged behind other major cities with respect to foot traffic: the metric reached only 42% of levels witnessed at the end of 2019 as of the first quarter of 2023, according to data from Placer Labs.

The number of arrests in San Francisco has meanwhile fallen significantly over the past three years amid calls from Breed and other prominent officials to defund law enforcement. Companies across the nation have contended with increases in retail theft, much of which is increasingly organized by criminal enterprises, according to a report released last month by the National Retail Federation. The trade association said crime networks have become increasingly “violent” and “brazen” in their tactics over the past two years, using methods such as smash-and-grab, weapons, or threats of violence against store employees and customers.

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