Retail crime, violence and theft are causing significant challenges for businesses across the US.

These issues are not sparing any retailers, impacting businesses of all sizes and in various locations.

A recent report highlights the alarming trends in retail security.

National Retail Security Survey reveals troubling statistics

The National Retail Federation’s National Retail Security Survey, conducted in partnership with the Loss Prevention Research Council, has uncovered some concerning statistics.

This survey gathers data from loss prevention (LP) and asset protection (AP) professionals to understand the risks and vulnerabilities faced by retailers.

In the latest findings, it was revealed that the average shrink rate in fiscal year 2022 increased to 1.6%, up from 1.4% in 2021. This rise in shrinkage equates to staggering losses, reaching $112.1bn in 2022, up from $93.9bn in the previous year.

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By GlobalData

Retail shrink, which includes various forms of loss, is primarily driven by theft, including organised retail crime (ORC). Theft, both internal and external, constitutes a significant portion, accounting for nearly 65% of retailers’ overall shrink.

In certain sectors, this figure can climb even higher, exceeding 70%.

Heightened violence and aggression in retail crime

While theft poses financial challenges, retailers are increasingly concerned by the rising levels of violence associated with these criminal activities. Providing a safe environment for both employees and customers remains a top priority for retailers.

An alarming 88% of retailers report that shoplifters have become more aggressive and violent over the past year. Even more concerning is that retailers who track violent shoplifting incidents saw a 35% increase on average.

Organised retail crime (ORC), a significant type of retail theft, is also experiencing heightened violence.

Last year, 81% of respondents reported that ORC offenders had become more violent and this year, 67% reported even greater violence and aggression from ORC perpetrators compared to the previous year.

Diverse forms of retail crime

Not all retail crime occurs in person; retailers are also grappling with a surge in e-commerce fraud and phone scams targeting gift cards or cash.

Though less common, there are also reports of increases in delivery fraud, the sale of stolen goods on third-party sites, return fraud and loyalty fraud and abuse.

In response to this concerning landscape, retailers are making significant investments in personnel, budgets, technology and other resources to combat theft and fraud.

They are also collaborating with law enforcement at various levels.

However, some retailers have had to take drastic actions such as reducing operating hours (45%), altering product availability (30%), or closing some locations (28%) to mitigate the impact of retail crime.

Legislative and advocacy measures

To address these issues, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has actively advocated for legislative solutions.

The INFORM Consumers Act, signed into law in January 2023, aims to bring transparency to online marketplaces by verifying the identities of high-volume third-party sellers and reducing the sale of stolen merchandise and counterfeit goods.

NRF also strongly supports the Combating Organised Retail Crime Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House and Senate to combat ORC. Additionally, NRF has worked with federal agencies, state lawmakers, local law enforcement and the media to raise awareness about ORC, leading to the passage of ORC laws in at least 34 states.

NRF continues to encourage more states to update ORC definitions and impose appropriate criminal penalties.