Retail Theft Hits Record Low; Bad Economy Could Reverse Trend

Published: June 26, 2008

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Losses from retail theft nationwide reached a 17-year low last year and declined for the sixth straight year, according to a new report. However, experts say that trend may reverse itself this year because of the bad economy.

The results of the National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), conducted by the University of Florida with a funding grant from ADT Security Services, were announced June 23 during the National Retail Federation’s Loss Prevention conference in Orlando.

Last year retailers lost more than $34.3 billion or 1.4 percent of overall sales compared to $40.5 billion and 1.57 percent of overall sales in 2006. One likely reason for the decrease in retail theft is the long-term investment by retailers in anti-shoplifting and anti-theft technologies and training, according to University of Florida criminologist Richard Hollinger, Ph.D., who directed the survey.

“The study shows there is good evidence that anti-theft technologies, properly implemented, are having a positive effect on reducing crime in the retail environment,” Hollinger says.

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Retail theft includes shoplifting, employee theft, administrative error and vendor fraud.

Over the past year, retailers reported increasing their investment in technologies such as Internet-based video systems. These systems allow retailers to control cameras and view images via the Internet. Another popular loss prevention product is software that allows retailers to analyze transactions and data giving them a real picture of what is happening in their overall operations, at the store level and even at the employee or sales associate level.

Retailers continue to battle organized retail crime where individuals or organized gangs work to systematically steal large quantities from retailers in stores, warehouses, distribution centers and goods in transit.

“While the survey suggests we are making inroads on traditional shoplifting and employee theft in stores, the problem of organized retail crime is still very real and something we need to take on as an industry,” says Joe La Rocca, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of loss prevention. “We need stronger laws to crack down on this type of crime and make it more difficult for criminals to resell stolen goods.”

The preliminary report shows that more than half of the 124 retailers questioned to date believe that organized retail crime is increasing, while 19 percent say they now have their own organized retail crime task forces.

Despite record low retail theft reported in the survey, a flagging economy threatens to reverse the downward trend this year, experts said at the trade show in Orlando.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Michael Liberatore, vice president of loss prevention, risk management and communications for Macy’s Florida, told an audience of retail executives that Macy’s stores in Florida have seen a dramatic increase this year in shoplifting, particularly with “grab and run” incidents, which are up 38 percent.

“It is no doubt driven by the economy,” Liberatore says.

Courtesy of Security Sales and Integration.

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