The Rev. Jesse Jackson has called for a boycott of Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) stores over the company closing locations in minority communities while building upscale stores in suburbs. Last year, Kroger closed 41 stores out of its nearly 2,800 locations. Various Krogers have been picketed over the closures.
Kroger has claimed that the stores are being closed because they are unprofitable and that it must turn a profit to serve customers. Jackson said he wasn’t sure if he believed the claims, noting Kroger’s $1.9 billion profit on sales of $123 billion last year.
As an example, Jackson brought up the closure of a Kroger store at 954 E. McMillan St. in the Walnut Hills neighborhood near Cincinnati, Ohio. The Walnut Hills store was closed a year ago after 34 years of operation. At the same time as the Walnut Hills closure, the company celebrated the reopening of an expanded Kroger Marketplace store in Corryville 1.3 miles away.
Kroger says the store was unprofitable for more than 20 of those years. The store had lost nearly $5 million since 2010 and was projected to lose $900,000 last year if it had stayed open. More than three-quarters of Walnut Hills’ residents are black. The neighborhood’s median household income was $29,000 in the 2010 Census, 15 percent lower than the city as a whole.
Kroger officials met with Jackson earlier this week at their downtown headquarters. Kroger said in a statement that senior leadership would meet with the protesters to discuss their concerns over the store closures. However, a timeframe for the discussions has not been provided.
Kroger is the world’s third-largest retailer behind Walmart and Costco. Kroger now offers its buy-online, pickup-at-the-store ClickList service at more than a third of its stores. Kroger home delivery services are now available in 45 major U.S. markets.