The Daily Scoop: San Francisco’s Union Square, grapples with business closures and media coverage

Plus more news you can use today.

Union Square in San Francisco’s downtown has seen better days — or even better years. With big businesses packing up and leaving, the popular public plaza is redefining its identity.

The context

According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times:

  • Nearly 30 stores closed in the downtown area since the pandemic and seven more are on tap to shutter. 
  • A dip in consumer purchases, supply chain issues and hefty operation costs along with public safety are some factors behind the 6% vacancy rate uptick in the city in the first quarter of the year. Last year the figure was at 5.2%, described as the “highest in the city” since 2006.
  • There are about 300,000 fewer people in downtown in comparison to 2019 and homelessness has impacted foot traffic.
  • “It’s a very serious problem for the whole city, much less downtown,” said Bay Area Council Economic Institute Executive Director Jeff Bellisario in the article.

The response

LA Times reported that San Francisco Mayor London Breed “pushed back against the narrative” that Union Square is in trouble.

Breed said in the article that the media is not talking about the stores that moved in.

“Those folks who don’t walk the streets in San Francisco, that don’t live in San Francisco, but they want to write about and commentate about San Francisco, I challenge you to come to this city and see what it feels like,” Breed said at a May news conference. “I challenge you to come shop at the stores that you’re complaining about, which you probably never even stepped foot in the first place.” 

Breed acknowledged in an ABC 7 article the need to beef up more police presence to draw more business in the city and foot traffic. She added that concerned residents are “going to see a difference” with proposed updates to the city.

Why it matters: Breed said that stores like Ikea and Banana Republic are moving into Union Square – but no one is covering that.

Marisa Rodriguez, Union Square Alliance CEO, said in the article that while some stores left, luxury retailers are here to stay.

“The heart of the square is beating strong — it’s alive,” she told the LA Times. “There certainly have been challenges postpandemic that a lot of major cities have been experiencing. We are trying to position ourselves to meet the moment and pivot where we can.”

Breed echoed her sentiments and announced a $6 million investment for three blocks near Union Square where stores closed like H&M, Uniqlo and Gap closed.

San Francisco’s city officials are positioning their city’s commercial area as unbeatable and undeterred. While Union Square faced (and still is facing) struggles and store closures, its reps are reminding others that there is more to come and to ignore the haters.  

Despite negative press surrounding a brand, continue to remind others about the realities of the situation – find and amplify positive news. 

Boost up your brand and continue shouting from the mountaintops about its resiliency, but don’t lean toward being delusional either. Strike the right balance of positivity and communicate that hard truth to others.

Rodriguez acknowledged the issues at hand but didn’t solely dwell on them either. 

If you dig deep, there are always great stories to tell. Focus on finding the positive and inspiring tales of comebacks and people triumphing over adversity. Because who doesn’t love an underdog?  

Top Headlines:

  • From Amazon and Kleenex to Cheerios and Dove – the Morning Consult ranked the 10 Most Trusted Brands in the United States with some familiar names among the top winners. The brands are ranked on companies that people trust would “do the right thing.” Others who made the list include Band-Aid, Lysol, UPS, Amazon, Kleenex, Cheerios and Dove.  
  • Air New Zealand wants to see how much you weigh before stepping on their airplane. New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority needs to know how much passengers weigh for its international flights as part of a safety measure to ensure weight distribution is appropriate for a survey. Program officials are ensuring passengers know that their weight will not be disclosed to anyone. Their information will be directly sent to the weight survey and won’t be visible while on the scale. The Aviation Authority emphasized wanting to shield customers from any potential embarrassment by having their weight hidden from anyone, which showed care and concern on their part.

Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at 



One Response to “The Daily Scoop: San Francisco’s Union Square, grapples with business closures and media coverage”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    This is excellent. At first it looks like Mayor Breed is either right or wrong but a closer look suggests a third choice that the mayor may gladly go for: new and better PR to bring back San Francisco’s success.

    From the plump sea lions of pier 39 to the svelte beauties of San Francisco bars and the corporate fat cats of California technology, SF is blessed with beauty
    and brains. And the city has a beautiful, brainy selection of great PR firms, some of the greatest in all the world, who can lift SF to again be one of the greatest cities.

    It won’t happen until San Franciscan’s make it happen. If Mayor Breed sees a realistic chance to become governor, or if the new stores of SF recognize the chance to get new wealth with new governance, it may happen. SF has the community and locational assets, and the massive PR talent, to make happen what Horace Greeley urged: go West young man.

    Today thanks to more knowledge of PR, we might skip the “man” and the “young.”

    Go west. I loved San Francisco, had a good office there, and I’d love to see one of San Francisco’s great PR firms rebuild that formerly leading city of equal opportunity and exceptional originality.

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