Retail Theft Is Changing The Customer Experience
General Views of New York LEVITTOWN, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: A general view of a Best Buy store on September 15, 2022 in Levittown, New York, United States. Many families along with businesses are suffering the effects of inflation as the economy is dictating a change in spending habits. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Bruce Bennett / Staff
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Staff/Getty Images

As retail theft continues to be an issue across the country, many stores are developing new strategies to help avoid losses. 

When shopping lately, consumers might see empty shelves, but that’s not necessarily from supply chain issues. It’s because the stores are locking up their merchandise to avoid being robbed.

This comes from a Wall Street Journal report which found that this is happening in stores like Best Buy and Home Depot. 

Home Depot executives have said that the store looks at which items are more likely to be stolen and lock them away in areas that are being targeted the most. Best Buy said it’s not hiding more product overall than it did previously, but it’s doing so where it’s necessary. 

How this impacts the customer is definitely a concern — not just for the consumers themselves, but for shareholders, too. One Best Buy analyst said people should sell their stock this summer after he saw how a lot of stores were locking up merchandise.

Sometimes, however, the practice has positive results. For example, Scott Glenn, vice president of asset protection at Home Depot, said that sales will go up steadily after a high risk product is locked away because the stores can actually maintain their stock. 

Retail theft spiked during COVID-19, and it’s still higher than it was before the pandemic.

This month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that 56% of 750 small businesses said in a survey they were attacked by shoplifters in the past year. 50% thought the issue had gotten worse and 46% of them increased their prices because of it.

A survey released this month by the National Retail Federation found that the amount of retail shrink experienced in 2021 was $94.5 billion, an increase from around $91 billion in 2020. 

Policies like Proposition 47 in California decriminalized theft under $950 in 2014, and several progressive DA’s around the country have shied away from prosecuting petty theft, especially since the death of George Floyd.

Workers and businesses around the country have fought back against theft on their own and taken the matter into their own hands. This happened in California in May when workers went after a group of thieves that broke into a jewelry store. One employee said he considered theft could be a possibility beforehand.

“We had an idea that it could happen, but it’s always different when it actually does happen to you,” he said, adding, “At some point while I was fighting them, one of them actually hit me in the head with a hammer, just on the side of my left temple, and I didn’t even register it until after they left because I think there was just so much like adrenaline going on.”

Some employees at Best Buy are even getting trained on how to stand nearby commonly stolen merchandise, likely as a deterrent. 

A workers union in Colorado and Wyoming even brokered a contract that made sure employees have the right to self defense if a consumer comes after them.

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