The Impact Of Shoplifting

Walmart announced recently that it will be closing its last two stores within the city limits of Portland, Oregon, because the performance of the two stores wasn’t meeting the company’s financial expectations. The decision follows a recent statement by Walmart’s CEO that increasing retail theft was affecting the performance of its stores. The two store closures will affect 600 employees, who will be given the opportunity to transfer to suburban Walmarts in the surrounding area, as well as the people who live nearby and use the store regularly.

Portland evidently has a significant shoplifting problem, and it is making businesses make a difficult choice. Walmart’s CEO noted that the spike in shoplifting means that prices “will be higher and/or stores will close.”  Other businesses, including Nike and Cracker Barrel, have closed Portland locations. Smaller businesses have been hurt, too. The owner of an upscale consignment shop at a Portland-area mall had to close that location because it was hit by shoplifters 19 times in the course of a year. The shoplifters stole $56,000 in merchandise, which was more than the business could absorb. Portland news media reports that the shoplifters often are brazen, stealing even in the view of security cameras, and apparently have little fear of being arrested or prosecuted.

The consignment store’s owner voiced her frustration with the situation in this way: “The amount of work that goes into running a small business, down to the research, tags and training to do this the right way and then someone just steals a day’s worth of all your work, it’s like — ‘What’s the point?'”

Portland’s sad story illustrates the domino effect that occurs when criminals are not caught and punished. If retailers respond to shoplifting losses by raising their prices to cover the cost of the thefts, the impact is borne by shoppers who are actually paying for their goods, as opposed to pilfering them. If stores are closed, jobs are lost, employees are dislocated, storefronts go empty, and the commercial real estate market is hurt. And, because the thieves don’t pay for their crimes, others are incentivized to steal, and entrepreneurs who otherwise might be opening new businesses are discouraged from doing so.

It’s not a positive cycle.

Evening Entrepreneurs

If you’re worried about whether there is any entrepreneurial spirit left in America, relax!  Last night we paid a visit to the Moonlight Market on Gay Street in downtown Columbus, and we can faithfully report that the entrepreneurial spirit in Cbus is alive and most definitely kicking.

The Moonlight Market is held once a month on the two blocks of Gay Street between High Street and Fourth.  Vendors set up tents on each side of the street — including on the sidewalk directly in front of the firm — and sell all manner of products, from artwork to baked goods and other foods to used books to plants to clothing to massages.  Unlike some street markets, all of the participants in the Moonlight Market seem to be individuals who are pursuing their passions through their small businesses and trying to make a few bucks in the process.  Without exception, the vendors are friendly, outgoing, and excited about what they are selling, and their enthusiasm is infectious.  You can’t help but pull for these people, and also support them with your wallets.  We bought some colorful artwork and some tasty baked goods from some very appreciative sellers.

Capitalism has its good points and its bad points, and some of the good points were on display last night on Gay Street.  Dozens of people were out in their tents on a very warm Saturday evening hoping to sell their handmade or hand-raised goods — even crocheted scarves and clothing that wasn’t exactly suited to the weather.  They all have stories to tell, like the young woman nicknamed Suga Pie who has a talent for cupcakes and has been working on selling them for eight years.  She’s recently created her own website and is working on her brand.  Her pineapple upside-down cupcakes are delicious, by the way.

Go get ’em, Suga Pie, and the rest of the Moonlight Market crew!  You are what makes our economy tick.  And if you want to see a little small business entrepreneurialism in the flesh, you can catch the next Moonlight Market on August 10.

A Watershed Event

At the Webner House, we’re all about supporting local businesses.  Two Columbus businesses that we enthusiastically endorse — especially after we’ve enjoyed their products — are two local distilleries, Watershed Distillery and Middle West Spirits.

IMG_3671Watershed Vodka is my vodka brand of choice.  Speaking on the basis of my chilly vodka-sampling visit to the Belvedere Ice Room a few years ago, I can attest that Watershed produces very high-quality, corn-based vodka that is every bit as good — and in some cases better — than the vodkas we tried.  It also fits well with the low-carb diet approach I’ve been taking the last few months.  And the Watershed event is that this year the distillery is producing its first seasonal concoction, a black walnut liqueur, made from Ohio walnuts, called Nocino.

Kish and Richard and Russell are the occasional whiskey samplers in our family, and they’ve enjoyed making Manhattans and Old Fashioneds with OYO whiskey, one of the trade names used by Middle West Spirits.  Made from 100 percent Ohio soft red winter wheat, OYO Whiskey has won a number of distilling awards, as well as a lot of fans.

Watershed’s distillery is just west of downtown in the Grandview area, and Middle West’s distillery is in the Short North.  Both are the kinds of successful local businesses that employ our neighbors, pay local taxes, care about the quality of their products, and help to keep the Columbus economy ticking — which is why we support them.

The next time you’re out on the town and in the mood for a mixed drink, give one of their products a try.  You won’t regret it.