Retail losses down for sixth year

Retail losses related to shoplifting, employee theft, vendor fraud and administrative error are down according to new survey data from the University of Florida.

The research, known as the National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), conducted by the University of Florida and funded with a grant from ADT Security Services, indicates that retail loss prevention activities are helping decrease retailers' losses. Richard Hollinger, Ph.D., director of the National Retail Security Survey, said that anti-shoplifting and theft technologies, coupled with proper training are at the root of this decline.

"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," said Hollinger.

Preliminary results of the research indicated that in 2007, retailers lost more than $34.3 billion, an amount equal to 1.4 percent of overall sales. That number compares to $40.5 billion (1.57 percent of overall sales) in 2006. This was the sixth year of overall decline in this area.

And while the preliminary results are perceived as good news for the industry, many are still facing an upswing in organized retail crimes (also known as organized retail theft). The preliminary study results found that more than half of the 124 retailers surveyed believe that organized retail crimes are increasing; 19 percent of the respondents have even implemented their own organized retail theft task forces.

Organized retail crimes are typically perpetrated by gangs organized for the purpose of stealing merchandise from retailers and supporting facilities such as warehouses, distribution centers and shipping vehicles. Such material is usually "fenced" and resold on the black market.

"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," said 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."