San Francisco faces 'retail exodus'

The American city of San Francisco is facing what US media are calling a "retail exodus" with fewer workers seen in the downtown area and stores closing one after another.

A recent report published by a real estate firm shows office vacancy rates across the United States stand at 18.2 percent.

The figure is the highest in the past 30 years as remote work has taken root following the coronavirus pandemic.

But the vacancy rate for San Francisco stands at 31.6 percent, the worst among major US cities. Before the pandemic struck in 2020, the figure was 4 percent.

There are now fewer workers in the downtown area and empty stores line the main avenues and other prime locations.

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reports that in 2019 there were 203 retail stores in a downtown district, but the figure had fallen to 107 by May, 2023.

Among those to pack up and leave was a major US department chain that closed its flagship store in a shopping mall after 35 years of operation.

Colin Yasukochi, an analysist of the CBRE real estate company, says workers are not showing up to their offices in the same numbers as compared to before the pandemic. He also says there are fewer customers which have made it difficult for retailers to keep operating in the downtown core.

He says an increasing amount of criminal activity and other factors are having an impact on the city.