Unmasking the Truth About Shoplifting: Is Your Business at Risk?

Shoplifting is often seen as a growing menace, but how much of this perception is reality? We’re getting to the heart of the issue with the latest statistics and insights from our experts. Is your business well-protected against shoplifting? Continue reading to find out…

Shoplifting Trends: Data and Analysis

A November 2023 report from The Council on Criminal Justice sheds light on some complex shoplifting trends. While certain cities do show an uptick, the national picture is more complex. New York City (64%) and Los Angeles (61%), have seen significant increases in shoplifting incidents from 2019 to 2023, but San Francisco (-5%) and Chicago (-13%) show decreases in the same time. This variability underscores shoplifting trends that differ greatly regionally, making a one-size-fits-all approach to loss prevention less effective. Businesses must equip themselves with knowledge and experience to custom-build their loss prevention strategies.

However, one thing that has increased across the board is Organized Retail Crime. ORC refers to the large-scale theft of retail goods with the intent to resell them. It involves coordinated activities by professional shoplifting groups or networks, which can significantly impact retailers. This topic has received a spotlight and increased attention from the media across various news outlets and mediums.

A recent survey from The National Retail Federation (the world’s largest retail trade association) shows that ORC is of growing concern. It revealed a 26.5% average rise in ORC incidents, with significant variations depending on whether the businesses had an ORC team. Ironically, an ORC team (specializing in identifying and mitigating large-scale retail theft by organized groups) significantly increases these statistics. Those with an ORC team reported a 3.3-fold greater increase in incidents compared to those without. This underscores the team’s role and the difficulty in identifying and documenting shoplifting incidents.

Mike Keenan, managing director of TAL Global, has an extensive 35 year background in retail loss prevention that includes working with major companies like Macy’s, Ross, and Gap. He offers his perspective:

“Organized Retail Crime is a significant issue that impacts businesses of all sizes, and it goes beyond the occasional one or two items taken by casual shoplifters. The sheer amount of merchandise stolen distinguishes it from simple opportunistic shoplifting and places a significant financial burden on retailers. It’s not just about minor losses; ORC can severely affect a company’s bottom line. Cultivating a proactive ORC team sends a clear message to would-be thieves, but it’s crucial for businesses to strike a balance between reducing losses and managing their public image.

Which leads me to another factor – ‘”unreported”’ shoplifting. Most major retailers are not apprehending  people like they did in the past, for a variety of reasons, therefore, there are going to be less reported incidents. In addition, all retail companies prohibit their employees from stopping shoplifters for personal safety reasons. Even companies with retail loss prevention personnel  are not making apprehensions due to safety, as well as, in places where the police do not respond to non-major crimes. In today’s age, retailer’s also must consider their reputation if a bad shoplifting situation goes viral.”

In the realm of retail, ‘shrink’ refers to the loss of inventory due to various factors such as theft, fraud, and operational errors. It’s a critical concern for businesses, with a staggering 89.7% of surveyed retailers evaluating their Loss Prevention/Asset Protection (LP/AP) departments based on their ability to reduce shrink levels. On average, these businesses reported a shrink rate of 1.4%, which aligns with the five-year average of 1.5%. This seemingly modest percentage translates to a substantial $94.5 billion in losses within the retail industry in 2021 when considered as a percentage of total retail sales.

Shrink takes various forms, with 37% attributed to external theft, including organized retail crime, followed by employee/internal theft and process/control failures. Managing shrink is just one facet of the broader field of loss prevention, which encompasses safeguarding not only merchandise but also store associates, customers, facilities, and other non-merchandise assets.

This information indicates that shoplifting is indeed a complex challenge for businesses of all sizes, and the evolving landscape of retail loss prevention can be daunting. We understand the intricacies of this issue, and our mission is to empower businesses, both large and small, in safeguarding their assets and preserving their bottom line. In today’s dynamic environment, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t cut it, but here are some actionable steps to consider:

  1. Loss Prevention Assessment: Start by evaluating your current loss prevention measures. Identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement within your business.
  2. Customized Strategies: Work with experts to develop a personalized loss prevention strategy that aligns with your business goals and caters to your specific risks.
  3. Employee Training: Train your staff to recognize,   respond, and report theft and fraud. Educated employees can be a vital asset in preventing loss.
  4. Technology Integration: Consider implementing cutting-edge technology solutions such as “smart” CCTV surveillance systems, RFID tagging, and point-of-sale analytics to identify and prevent losses. 
  5. Collaboration: Engage with industry experts and organizations to stay updated on the latest trends and best practices in loss prevention.
  6. Shrink Reduction Plan: Develop a comprehensive shrink reduction plan that covers theft, fraud, and operational errors.

Our experienced team at TAL Global is here to help you navigate the complexities of retail loss prevention. Whether you have questions, need guidance, or want to establish a robust loss prevention program, we are at your service. Feel free to reach out to us for expert assistance and peace of mind in protecting your business assets.




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TAL Global is an elite security, consulting, and risk management firm that protects human and physical assets around the globe. 

© TAL Global, 2019