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April 29, 2022

Filings buzz: tracking cybersecurity mentions in retail

We've analysed companies' annual reports and other filings to see which key issues are receiving the most attention.

By Data Journalism Team

Mentions of cybersecurity within the filings of companies in the retail sector were 126% higher during 2021 than in 2016, according to the latest analysis of data from GlobalData.

When retail companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Cybersecurity is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether cybersecurity is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of retail companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned cybersecurity at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 74% compared to 65% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to cybersecurity.

Of the 10 biggest employers in the retail sector, Amazon was the company which referred to cybersecurity the most during 2021. GlobalData identified 47 cybersecurity-related sentences in the United States-based company's filings - 0.9% of all sentences. Target mentioned cybersecurity the second most - the issue was referred to in 0.7% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high cybersecurity mentions included Home Depot, Walmart and Ahold Delhaize.

Across all retail companies the filing published in the fourth quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on cybersecurity came from Dunelm. Of the document's 3,974 sentences, 40 (1%) referred to cybersecurity.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on cybersecurity and how important the issue is considered within the retail sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning cybersecurity more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into cybersecurity have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises cybersecurity mentions by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 'data security', which made up 84% of all cybersecurity subtheme mentions by retail companies.

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