Retailers ramped up shoplifting, dishonest employee recovery efforts in 2021

May 31, 2022
New research shows that shoplifting apprehensions actually decreased last year

Brazen incidents of shoplifting in cities across the U.S. have grabbed numerous national headlines over the past several years. From a bicycle-riding shoplifter filling a garbage bag full of merchandise at a San Francisco Walgreens to a group of 14 people stealing $120,000 worth of goods from a Louis Vuitton store near Chicago, there has been no shortage of high-profile thefts from retailers throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, rather than trying to apprehend the responsible parties, a new report from consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International shows that retailers have shifted their focus to recovering dollars lost to such incidents. In fact, the firm’s 34th Annual Retail Theft Survey, which polled 25 large retailers with 22,751 stores and over $650 billion in retail sales in 2021 combined, found that dollar recoveries from shoplifters and dishonest employees increased by more than 30% last year.

Specifically, survey participants recovered more than $240 million from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2021, up nearly 10% over the previous year’s report. Additionally, retailers recovered over $339 million from shoplifters in which no apprehension was made, an increase of 51.1% compared to 2020.

The number of shoplifters caught by retailers actually declined, with respondents reporting 166,745 apprehensions in 2021, which is down by 16.2% versus the prior year. Dishonest employee apprehensions ticked up slightly to 37,659, which is an increase of 6% over 2020.  

“When it comes to shoplifting, the survey showed many retailers moved away from apprehensions in 2021 and focused more on recoveries,” Mark R. Doyle, President of Jack L. Hayes International, said in a statement. “Survey respondents noted the pandemic environment, staff safety, lower police response and higher risks as some of the reasons for less shoplifter apprehensions.

Unfortunately, case averages also saw significant increases across the board in 2021. These included:

  • Total thefts: $1,180.39, up 26%
  • Shoplifters: $1,178.57, up 26.6%
  • Dishonest employees: $1,188.46, up 22.6%

With regards to overall shrink, 52% of the retailers surveyed reported seeing an increase in shrink last year, while 44% said they experienced a decrease. Just 4% of retailers reported seeing no change in company shrink.

For every $1 recovered, the report found that $11.67 is lost to retail theft, meaning that only 7.9% of total theft losses ever result in a recovery.    

For more information or to download a full copy of the report, click here.