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Macy’s Union Square workers say rampant shoplifting to blame for closure

A person riding an escalator inside a department store looks behind her.
A Macy’s shopper rides the escalator onto the fifth floor men’s department at the San Francisco Macy’s in Union Square on Tuesday. The store is slated to close once a buyer acquires the building. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Employees at the Macy’s store in San Francisco’s Union Square say rampant shoplifting is to blame for the planned closure of the flagship store.

After news broke on Tuesday that the 77-year-old store was among the 150 locations Macy’s plans to shutter over the next three years, six employees working at the department store told The Standard that they believed retail theft was a primary factor in the decision.

“It happens every day,” employee Steve Dalisay said.

Hanging up blazers in the Macy’s sixth-floor men’s department, Dalisay said blazers, wallets and boxer briefs are the items most frequently stolen from his department. He said thieves take at least four blazers every day, adding that he typically sees about 10 wallets and 20 briefs stolen daily.

Dalisay said management announced the location would be closing at a store meeting at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, but they did not say why. He said management added that the store would likely not close until roughly three years from now, but that the building was expected to sell within a year.

A representative for Macy’s did not respond to The Standard’s questions about whether retail theft was a factor in the decision to shutter the Union Square location but said the company “rigorously evaluated every Macy’s store and reviewed each market to determine the right mix of go-forward locations.” The company has said the planned closures, which will affect about 30% of its total locations, are due to flagging sales.

Workers at the Union Square store have enjoyed a front-row seat to the popular shopping district’s vibrant holiday displays and seasonal events, but they have also taken stands to address ongoing issues. During the holiday shopping season in 2022, all of the store’s full-time retail employees—which include salespeople, cashiers and customer service representatives—walked out of their jobs to strike against layoffs and cuts to benefits.

Dalisay, who has worked at the Macy’s in Union Square for 20 years after moving to San Francisco from the Philippines in 1996, blamed Mayor London Breed and Prop. 47, which made shoplifting less than $950 worth of property a misdemeanor, as the source of the store’s shoplifting woes. He called on the city to more aggressively prosecute shoplifters.

“I think there just needs to be leadership,” Dalisay said. “The mayor just needs to say we won’t tolerate this in the city.”

In the fourth-floor women’s department, another employee who has been working at the Union Square Macy’s for more than 10 years insisted that theft and lower sales were the driving forces behind the closure.

“It’s the theft, and that people aren’t coming in,” said the worker, who did not want to be identified because employees aren’t allowed to speak to reporters. “Basically, the same thing that happened to the Nordstrom is happening to us.”

Another employee told The Standard that shoplifters targeting the store go after men’s Ralph Lauren Polo, women’s North Face and Levi’s apparel.

Shoplifters, he said, tend to be in two categories: drug users going after specific items for fences or teens entering the store in teams on brazen shoplifting blitzes.

“I’m not in charge of making the estimates of how much we lose in a day, but last year we were told the losses were in the millions,” the employee said.

“It’s a big thing,” he added. “What we have learned is a lot of drug users have deals with the fencers. They’ll give the drug users a list of stuff from the store, and they’ll go try to execute the list.”

The employee said some of the shoplifters are bold and will stuff items in their backpacks. Others will try to be more low-key, stashing items they don’t really want to distract asset-protection workers, while another person will procure items off the fencer’s list.

Teens, he added, typically tend to target the store’s fragrance department and its Sunglass Hut kiosk.

“The juveniles will come in in teams and try to grab the fragrance boxes,” he said. “Recently, one of them was able to steal a pair of Fendi sunglasses that are priced around $2,000.”

A city skyline and shaded streets surround a sunlit central plaza.
Union Square is seen outside the Macy’s fifth-floor window facing Geary Street on Tuesday. The Union Square Macy’s is slated to close once a buyer acquires the building. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

An employee on the store’s first floor, where perfume and beauty creams are sold, also named theft and lower sales as the main reasons for the closure.

“I think it’s a contributing factor,” the worker said. “The store just isn’t doing very well.”

Another worker on the first floor said she sees more than a dozen shoplifters each day. She said thieves go after bottles of perfume and skin creams, particularly those made by Dior, Estée Lauder and Clinique. Some of the products cost more than $400, according to the worker.

“I’d say I see at least 20 [thefts] a day,” she said. “I think they just take anything they can resell.”

But Jim Araby, vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 5, which represents Macy’s workers, said the issues at play were bigger than shoplifting.

“We believe it has more to do with Macy’s reorganizing their footprint under their new CEO and the pressure from outside investors trying to create a situation for a hostile takeover of the board,” Araby told The Standard Tuesday afternoon.

He added that the company has talked about wanting to focus more on high-end luxury goods.

“If that is the case, they are not going to fully walk away from SF and the Union Square area, which is the exact place to be,” Araby said. “We will see what the next move is from Macy’s.”

Garrett Leahy can be reached at
George Kelly can be reached at