HomeShoplifting and Black Friday: Concerns Grow as the Holiday Season Approaches
Nov 18, 2023
3 min read
Edited ByRebecca Edwards
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As the holiday season fast approaches, retailers are gearing up for what should be one of the busiest shopping days of the year—Black Friday. However, behind the scenes, a growing concern is casting a shadow over the festivities: shoplifting.
According to the National Retail Federation, organized retail crime incidents saw a significant increase in 2021 compared to the previous year. This type of crime involves groups stealing merchandise on a large scale to resell, impacting businesses of all sizes and costing companies an average of seven cents per $100 in sales.
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Retailers’ concerns as Black Friday approaches
As retailers prepare for Black Friday, they are increasingly concerned about the threat shoplifters pose. A recent report by the Council on Criminal Justice reviewed shoplifting incidents across 24 cities over the past five years, suggesting that shoplifting may not be on the rise everywhere. Some retailers blame store closures and increased security measures on shoplifting, while others point to internal issues like overstocked inventories as the real culprits.
Major retailers, including Sephora, Walgreens, and Target, have implemented various measures to combat rising theft rates. These measures include removing high-value items like fragrances from store shelves and replacing them with tester samples. While these strategies may be beneficial, they can also lead to customer backlash and increased shrinkage. Additionally, while practical, self-checkout technology has faced challenges with customer errors and shoplifting—leading some retailers to reconsider its use.
Is shoplifting out of control?
Despite some cities experiencing an increase in shoplifting during the first half of the year compared to pre-pandemic levels, there is no clear national rise in shoplifting, according to the analysis by the Council on Criminal Justice. The data suggests that while individual incidents may be on the rise, the overall picture is more nuanced.
According to the Council on Criminal Justice analysis, shoplifting reports in 24 major cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Francisco, were 16% higher during the first half of 2023 compared to 2019. However, when excluding New York City, the number of incidents among the remaining cities was 7% lower.
“The overall data doesn’t indicate a great shift in the average shoplifting event, but the brazen ransacking incidents, coordinated on social media and captured on video, clearly suggest that there is a sense of lawlessness afoot,” said Adam Gelb, the CEO of the Council on Criminal Justice.
Electronics, cosmetics, and now jeans: Walmart starts locking up denim
As concerns over retail theft continue to rise, retailers like Walmart are implementing additional security measures. Social media users recently shared photos and videos showing Walmart locking up jeans and other items behind glass security doors.
Walmart has been one of several corporations facing a surge in retail thefts, prompting them to take action. While the exact store location where the photos were taken remains unconfirmed, a Walmart spokesperson stated that “some products are subject to additional security” on a store-by-store basis. Walmart is committed to exploring ways to protect its merchandise, maintain low prices, and ensure product availability for its customers.
What stores have done already in 2023
Major retailers such as Target, Nike, and Walmart are grappling with escalating theft challenges and seeking solutions. Target recently announced the closure of nine stores in various cities, citing the rising threat of theft and organized retail crime as the primary reasons.
Nike also had to permanently shut down a high-profile store in Oregon due to rampant theft, affecting the company’s profits. On the other hand, Walmart has already closed 22 stores in 2023, with plans to reopen its Vine City location in Atlanta with significant upgrades, including a police station to combat crime and improve safety for shoppers.
As retailers continue to face the complex issue of shoplifting and organized retail crime, they are taking various approaches to ensure the safety of their customers and the sustainability of their businesses in the challenging landscape of the modern retail industry. With Black Friday on the horizon, retailers are acutely aware of the need to balance security and the shopping experience for their customers during the holiday season.
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The creation of this article was assisted by automation technology. All content therein has been thoroughly edited and fact-checked by our in-house editorial staff of human safety experts.
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