Rite Aid shutters Bartell Drugs location amid increase in retail theft

The closure of the South Lake Union’s Bartell Drugs brings the total number of Seattle shutdowns for the chain to four in less than a year.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Another Bartell Drugs location shuttered last month, adding yet another closure in the Seattle area for the Rite Aid-owned chain.

According to The Seattle Times, the closure of the South Lake Union’s Bartell Drugs at 1001 Mercer St. brings the total number of Seattle shutdowns for the chain to four in less than a year.

Rite Aid said in a statement to the outlet that the decision to close the stores was based on factors including “business strategy, lease, and rent considerations, local business conditions and viability, and store performance.”  

The statement was the same when the chain announced it was permanently closing its Ballard location at 15th and Market in June as the area continued to grapple with rampant shoplifting and crime.

The 133-year-old Bartell Drugs is now down to 63 locations across the Pacific Northwest, according to the outlet. Like many other stores in the Seattle area, the chain has been a focal point for crime and shoplifting with many retailers closing due to crime concerns.

Rite Aid didn’t specify a reason for the closure of the Ballard location. However, according to a 2020 survey of 88 businesses that included Bartell Drugs, businesses in Ballard have been victims of crimes such as shoplifting and assault, leading to financial losses and employees feeling unsafe.

In 2020, Ken Mahoney, Bartell's Sr. Vice President of Operations, told the Ballard Alliance that the assistant manager of the Ballard location was assaulted, noting that “Employees are plagued by habitual shoplifters and harassment.”

Kathi Lentzsch, CEO of Bartell Drugs, announced in March 2019 that the chain would not be opening any more stores in downtown Seattle due to theft and violent assaults on employees.

Lentzsch noted that the problem is not unique to the chain because competitors are facing the same issues as many other retailers in Seattle.

In September 2019, the chain closed its flagship downtown Seattle location due to crime before its lease expired, stating that the cost of stolen items and hiring armed security had become too high.

Bartell closed its location in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District in 2022. According to the SPD crime dashboard at the time, there had been 491 cases of property crime, including 108 cases of burglary & 327 cases of larceny-theft in the area.

Crime has continued to spike in Seattle in the wake of the defund the police movement by the city council, and close to 600 officers have been separated from the department.

According to Rite Aid spokesperson Alicja Wojczyk, since 2022, Bartell’s parent company Rite Aid has shuttered close to 195 stores across 17 states.

The Seattle Times reported that since the pharmacy giant acquired Bartell Drugs in 2020, Rite Aid’s stock value has fallen 84 percent. 
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