Rev. Jesse Jackson has initiated a boycott against retail company Kroger for having closed stores in minority communities, and he’s expanded the boycott into the company’s home in Cincinnati.
USA Today reports Rev. Jackson’s expansion kicked off Tuesday (Apr. 10) with the civil rights leader sharing his sentiments alongside city organizers in front of a closed Kroger location for a news conference. Shortly after, the reverend led a demonstration. Jackson posited that the company has been closing stores in minority communities, creating “food deserts,” and displacement for poor black workers. While the store closing have had a big impact on minority neighborhoods, he also pointed out how it’s also damaged the homes of poor white workers alike, with Walnut Hills store closing as an example.
Kroger rationalized the closure of the Walnut Hills store with a statement about its profitability. Officials alluded to an estimated $900,000 loss, in addition to nearly $5 million lost since 2010 had they remained open. “Because we operate a ‘penny profit’ business, we must sometimes make tough decisions in order to keep our prices low for all customers,” the company said.
Jackson doesn’t believe that profits had anything to do with the store’s closure. “We’re not convinced it’s true,” he said at the conference. As the primary grocery source for this particular neighborhood in Ohio, the reverend doesn’t buy the response that it didn’t generate enough revenue. He asked, “Is it a management issue or a consumer issue? Because people are consuming.”
Walnut Hill is predominantly a minority community with a population composed 75 percent of black residents. Many are beneath the poverty line. The 2010 Census reported that black residents made 15 percent less than the city in its entirety There have been a number of Kroger protests, both in Georgia and in Kroger-owned locations in the West, according to Jackson. The company closed 41 stores last year.
In recent years, Kroger has redirected its budget of more than $4 billions dollars, spending it on the restoration of stores. The store has also invested in digital platforms amid the rollout of Walmart’s digital strategy and Amazon’s digital and physical market takeover after partnering with Whole Foods.
The company continues to invest in the refinement of its physical stores but it has its eye on grocery delivery and works to increase digital accessibility.