Retailers Report Highest Theft Losses in Six Years at $36 Billion

Increase in shoplifting has retailers turning to new technologies to combat crime this holiday season

The busiest shopping season of the year is upon consumers and more shoppers in stores mean more shoplifting and theft. Retail theft was up for the first time in six years according to the National Retail Security Survey conducted by the University of Florida and funded by ADT Security Services. In 2008, retailers reported losing US$36.3 billion to theft, which includes shoplifting, employee theft and vendor fraud.

Retail theft affects everyone. It causes losses for retailers, means fewer products are on the shelves when shoppers want them and raises the cost of products and merchandise across the board. According to another University of Florida study, the average family pays an extra $2,000 a year as a result of retail theft. That number includes all associated costs, including direct losses, the cost of restocking shelves, hiring additional staff and security personnel and other activities to combat shoplifting.

As retailers brace for an increase in shoplifting this holiday season, combined with reduced staffing levels and the growing issue of organized retail crime, many are turning to new anti-shoplifting tools and technologies to help stop retail criminals and limit losses.

According to ADT, one of the world's largest providers of electronic security to the retail industry, retailers are using more sophisticated antishoplifting techniques. Some of the newer technologies include anti-theft tags for everything from steaks to sneakers. Smart cameras can detect unusual events such as a whole stack of designer jeans disappearing from a store shelf. Newly developed people-counting devices help retailers monitor store traffic to identify peak hours, patterns and flow. This kind of store intelligence helps retailers identify when and where to add staff, improving the customer shopping experience. Also, sophisticated software at the cash register can analyze thousands of pieces of store data to help retailers identify suspicious transactions such as refund fraud.

The fourth largest retailer in the U.S., The Home Depot, uses an arsenal of integrated anti-theft and anti-shoplifting technologies to combat shoplifting, organized retail crime and employee theft.

“At this time of year we do see an increase in shoplifting and the anti-theft technologies we use are invaluable,” said Mick Pinneke, Senior Director for Asset Protection at The Home Depot. “Our integrated technologies multiply our efforts exponentially, helping us to act quickly to stop and limit criminal activities.”

In a tough economy, resourceful retailers are finding that technology can give them the edge they need to succeed, according to Lee Pernice, Director of Retail Marketing for ADT.

“The National Retail Security Survey and another independent survey of more than 300 retailers show that they see anti-theft technologies as vital to their business,” Pernice said. “Despite the recession and its heavy impact on the industry, retailers indicated that they would continue to adopt new technologies and seek greater use of their existing anti-shoplifting tools.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a leading retail group, is working to make penalties for shoplifting and retail crime more stringent. The group is currently working with Congress on four bills to give law enforcement the tools they need to deal with organized retail crime, where large quantities of goods are stolen and then sold online or at flea markets.

“This type of crime not only hurts retailers, it also puts consumers at risk when they purchase items such as diabetic test strips that can become unsafe if they have not been stored properly,” said Casey Chroust, Executive VP, Retail Operations for RILA. “The combination of tougher laws and more sophisticated anti-theft technologies should help to protect both retailers and the public.”
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