Two years after proclaiming that “Walmart believes in Chicago’s hopeful future,” the retail giant announced Tuesday that it is shutting down four of its eight remaining stores in the city because they never turned a profit.
Walmart will close the four Chicago locations on Sunday. They include Neighborhood Market stores in Kenwood, Lakeview and Little Village and one Supercenter on the city’s South Side, in the Chatham neighborhood. That location also includes a health center and a Walmart Academy job training center.
Walmart’s Chatham store had been closed for nearly half a year after being damaged in the civil unrest that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The simplest explanation is that collectively our Chicago stores have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago. These stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years,” Walmart said Tuesday. “The remaining four Chicago stores continue to face the same business difficulties, but we think this decision gives us the best chance to help keep them open and serving the community.”
The closures come a couple of weeks after Walmart confirmed it would close 15 stores around the country this year. These four Chicago closures were not included in that list, though three other Illinois closures—in Homewood, Plainfield and Lincolnwood—were previously reported.
In June 2021, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon penned an op-ed titled “CEO: Walmart Believes in Chicago” for a local business journal.
“Despite our historic challenges in the market, we believe in the potential of our associates and our business in Chicago,” McMillon wrote. “So we decided we wouldn’t do just what was necessary to reopen, but that we should expand our investment in the community and improve on what we had offered before.”
“Walmart wants to serve the people of this great city, build a successful business and work with those who are determined to see Chicago fulfill its potential,” he wrote at the time.
In June 2020, McMillon stood on stage with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and said that, even though the Chicago stores were losing money, the company remained committed to the city.
“When you look at the size of the investment we’re making, we’re not making it for the short term. It’s our intention to be here,” he said at the time, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I can’t speak to future years, if some future generation of Walmart leaders may come by and look at the profit and loss of these stores and make different choices a store at a time. But this commitment we’re making is big, so we’re intending to be here to stay.”
A Walmart spokesperson did not immediately respond to a WGB request for further comment on the latest closures or the future of Walmart’s Neighborhood Market concept.
As of January 31, Walmart operated 5,317 retail locations in the U.S., including 3,572 Supercenters and 682 Neighborhood Markets.
Walmart said all workers at the four stores slated for closure will be eligible to transfer to the retailer’s other locations.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it has tried a variety of strategies over the years to improve the performance of its Chicago stores, including building smaller stores, selling locally made products, and expanding services beyond traditional retail offerings. Walmart said it has invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Chicago, including $70 million in recent years to upgrade stores and build two new health facilities and the training center in Chatham. Walmart said it has also met with community leaders to try to solve the issues.
“It was hoped that these investments would help improve our stores’ performance,” Walmart said. “Unfortunately, these efforts have not materially improved the fundamental business challenges our stores are facing. … As we looked for solutions, it became even more clear that for these stores, there was nothing leaders could do to help get us to the point where they would be profitable.”
Pharmacies at the soon-to-shutter locations will stay open for up to 30 days, Walmart said.
Walmart said it will donate the Walmart Academy to the community and that it will work with local leaders to find ways to reuse the closed store buildings.
Walmart employees at the impacted locations will be paid until Aug. 11, unless they transfer to another store doing that time. If they don’t transfer, they will be eligible for severance benefits, the company said.
Chicago Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson said he will work to ensure that communities impacted by the Walmart closures have access to groceries, according to a statement posted on Twitter by a Chicago Tribune reporter.
"Walmart's decision to close four locations in Chicago this week will leave a void in the communities they serve, particularly stores located in communities that have historically lacked options for grocery stores and pharmacies," Johnson said. "These stores served as a crucial lifeline for communities to obtain fresh, affordable produce."
UPDATE: This story has been updated with a comment from Chicago's incoming mayor.