Retailers apprehend shoplifters and dishonest employees in record numbers

According to the Annual Retail Theft Survey, U.S. businesses continues to battle the scourge of retail theft


While the increased brazenness and skills of both shoplifters and unscrupulous employees continue to plague retailers across the United States, the industry’s most respected loss prevention researchers offer some good news in their just released survey. According to numbers highlighted in the 26th Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International, the leading loss prevention and inventory shrinkage control consulting firm, both apprehensions and money recovered from retail theft increased again in 2013.

The survey says almost 1.2 million shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2013 by just 23 large retailers, who recovered over $199 million from thieves. The figures show that shoplifting apprehensions were up 2.5 percent and recovery dollars increased by 4.5 percent. When it came to cracking down on internal theft, the survey revealed that apprehensions for dishonest employees rose 6.5 percent and recovery dollars rose 2.5 percent. According to Mark R. Doyle, President of Jack L. Hayes International, these figures display a positive trend of apprehension and recovery that has been seen for three consecutive years.

"Retail theft is a serious problem which is stealing retailers' profits, and causing consumers to pay higher prices to help offset these losses,” says Doyle. “With all the preventive measures our survey participants take it is amazing they still have to make all these apprehensions and continue to make more and more apprehensions annually.”

When it comes to shoplifting, Doyle admits it is a cause and effect environment. He says that the 23 major retail organizations who participated in the research outlined several major reasons why shoplifting incidents continue to rise. These 23 large retail companies represent 23,204 stores and over $660 billion in retail sales in 2013. Here are some of the reasons they give:

  • Continued growth and complexity of Organized Retail Crime is Increasing: Losses from ORC are reported to be over $30 billion annually, triple what they were just 10 years ago. These thieves work in teams often using distraction to commit their theft of items such as over-the-counter medicines, razors, baby formula, batteries, CDs and DVDs, tools, and designer clothing. It is not uncommon for retailers to tell of experiences where groups of professionals -- hardcore, or international shoplifting gangs -- ‘hit’ their stores using ‘booster-bags’ and similar shoplifting devices.  Losses routinely are reported in the thousands of dollars per incident.
  • Stolen Merchandise Easier to Sell: Without question, many thieves have found that selling their stolen items through various on-line auction sites results in quicker sales and much higher prices than the traditional selling of items on the street or at a local flea market.  This easy access to a much larger audience has resulted in shoplifting becoming a highly popular way to quickly get cash.
  • Reduced Sales Floor Coverage/Customer Service: Less employees on the sales floor servicing customers, creates greater opportunities for thieves to steal.
  • Reduced Social Stigma & “Low Risk/Non-Offensive” Crime: While the amateur shoplifter is finding the social stigma of shoplifting to be lessening, many professional and hardcore thieves find shoplifting is both a highly profitable and low jail-risk endeavor. Shoplifters know that violent crimes can draw jail time, while the prosecution of non-violent crimes such as shoplifting is not always encouraged by law enforcement, and therefore seldom results in jail time.

Several other reasons Doyle and his group offer as explanations for shoplifting’s continued upward trend include; a lackluster economy and continued higher unemployment levels; retailers carrying higher dollar product lines/items; an overburdened criminal justice system leads to recidivism; and finally, loss prevention staff members are more focused on the crime.

As far as the pure numbers go, the annual Hayes survey shows the following:

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