Retail theft study: Shrink on the rise globally

Increase attributed to organized retail crime, economic factors

While shrink around the world may be on the rise, retailers have not sat idly by and watched it happen as many are implementing new policies and technologies to address the problem. According to the study, 95 percent of retailers had enhanced their employee training to help spot and deter theft and 88 percent planned to do more employee training. In addition, 55 percent of retailers have introduced new crime prevention hardware and software in the last three years, 30 percent have implemented pre-employment screenings and 34 percent hired more in-store loss prevention employees. Bamfield said that U.S. retailers are spending more than $12 billion a year on loss prevention efforts.

As in past years, shoplifters tended to focus on a wide variety of expensive, branded products such as razor blades, cosmetics, electronics, smartphones, watches, sunglasses, infant formula, and shoes among others items. Retailers, however, seem to be doing a better job of protecting these targeted items. According to the study, between 2009 and 2011, "the proportion of retail 'Top Fifty' most stolen product lines with no specific protection fell from 28 percent to 24 percent."

Bamfield said that some legislative efforts to help curb organized retail theft have managed to put a dent into the crime, but he indicated that much more still needs to be done. "Probably the whole problem will be eliminated if they get a fair number of perpetrators and give them prison sentences," he said.

Bamfield said that people also need to realize the costs of retail theft on consumers.

"The costs of retail crime are considerable. We estimated that its $446 per family in the U.S. When the ordinary family realizes how much they're paying for retail crime... then perhaps they'll get onto law enforcement and politicians to say 'why don't we do something about this?'" he said. "What is needed is a comparable response from the criminal justice system and interest in penalizing and increasing the sanctions against thieves because at the moment, often being found shoplifting is the equivalent of a bad day in the office. That's no deterrent to people stealing from shops."