Home Retail Leaders: Action Needed on Escalating Store Crimes
November 29, 2021

Retail Leaders: Action Needed on Escalating Store Crimes

NRF Upgrades 2021 Retail Sales Growth Forecast

By: Mike Duff

Contributing Editor

The Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition have released a report reviewing the rise in organized criminal activity targeting stores, quantifying the economic impact such crimes are having on local businesses and communities.


The issue of organized retail crime got additional profile recently when Best Buy, in announcing third quarter financial results, reported that theft has become a bigger issue for the retailer and discussed measures it has taken to address the challenge.

In addition to financial and economic impacts, the report discusses the significant impact retail crimes are having on employees, who increasingly encounter more brazen and violent theft in stores.

Criminals stole as much as $68.9 billion worth of products from retailers during 2019, in a pre-COVID measurement. Retail crime resulted in $125.7 billion in lost economic activity and 658,375 fewer jobs, RILA noted. In addition, retail theft costs federal and state governments nearly $15 billion in personal and business tax revenues, not including the lost sales taxes. Almost 67% of asset protection managers at leading retailers surveyed reported a moderate to considerable increase in organized retail crime, with more than 86% saying that an organized retail criminal has verbally threatened an associate with bodily harm.

“The impact on front-line retail workers can no longer be ignored by policymakers,” said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, a national association founded in November 2008 by law enforcement and retail loss prevention professionals. “As these crimes have become more organized and brazen, they have also led to more violence against employees. These crimes are not just property crimes, they impact the safety of everyone in the store.”

Organized and professional theft rings that steal large quantities of merchandise have turned to online marketplaces and social media vehicles to fence mass quantities of stolen product quickly and anonymously to unsuspecting consumers, RILA asserted. The study used exclusive data provided from some of the largest retailers in the United States to determine the effects of retail crime.

“Organized retail crime is more than petty shoplifting, and the economic impact has become alarming,” Michael Hanson, RILA senior executive vice president, public affairs. “Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online through marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook. The lack of transparency online has made it easy to hide behind a screen name and fake business information to peddle stolen products. Washington needs to establish a base level of transparency on e-commerce platforms to make it harder for criminal enterprises to operate in the shadows of the Internet.”

The Buy Safe America Coalition, an organization of retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, intellectual property advocates and law enforcement officials, is addressing the growing problem of stolen merchandise sold online by urging the U.S. Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act, RILA pointed out. A bipartisan measure, it would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers, making it harder for retail theft rings to peddle stolen goods on e-commerce platforms. The House of Representatives bill also has won endorsement from the Coalition to Protect America’s Small Sellers, a group of third-party marketplaces and e-commerce facilitators.


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