Major retailers across the United States have begun putting everyday products such as toothpaste, chocolate, washing powder and deodorant under lock and key amid rising reports of petty thefts and organized shoplifting as the country grapples with the cost of living. Meanwhile, some shoppers said they feel intimidated while shopping amid high rates of organized retail theft.
US retailers justify keeping products under lock and key
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According to a report by AFP, large US retailers such as Walmart and Target, drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens as well as home improvement company Home Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods are among a growing number of companies that have expressed concerns about thefts, including some violent incidents.
They’ve also talked about how this affected their recent earnings. “Organized retail crime, and theft in general, is an increasingly serious issue that affects many retailers,” said Lorraine Hobart, CEO of Deck during a conference call, as quoted by AFP. She also described the impact of the theft on the company’s stock as “meaningful”.
In a separate news conference, Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, said: “In the first five months of this year, our stores saw a 120 percent increase in incidents of theft involving violence or the threat of violence.” He also noted that the loss of inventory due to theft is far beyond what can be sustained in the long run.
According to the 2022 Retail Security Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, US retailers lost about $94.5 billion nationwide due to so-called “deflation” in 2021. In this context, deflation refers to the loss of inventory due to factors including theft employees, shoplifting, or administrative errors.
The survey also indicated that retailers saw an average rise of 26.5 percent in organized retail crime in 2021, and the majority of respondents said the pandemic had increased risk.
What is the reason for this increase in the rates of violence and theft?
The US Federal Reserve announced consecutive interest rate increases bringing the figure that was close to zero to around 5.5 percent over 18 months, the highest in 22 years.
Not only did higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow money for larger purchases, but it also made it difficult for companies to expand while American consumers were feeling the squeeze.
Actions taken by stores
The high rates of theft prompted stores to install transparent walls with locks on shelves, sometimes locked chains on refrigerators, and scatter call buttons in the aisles for employees, according to Agence France-Presse. In addition, stores also store unprotected shelves sparsely.
Some retailers have closed their stores due to high rates of theft and lack of profitability. In 2021, Walgreens closed five stores in the US city of San Francisco due to theft.
American shoppers are afraid
Ann McGee, a New Yorker from Queens, told AFP she doesn’t like the fear she’s been feeling lately while shopping amid rising rates of theft. “It’s not normal to feel intimidated” when shopping, McGee told the news agency.
She has been a resident of the town for more than four decades, and said she recently became so concerned about her safety that she left her purse and jewelry – including her wedding ring – at home when she went shopping.
(with input from agencies)
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