Shedding Light on Retail Theft Statistics

LP pros need to stay on top of available data regarding shoplifting incidents, dishonest employee apprehensions, and other retail theft statistics.

retail theft statistics

Loss prevention and retail industry professionals have a responsibility to stay informed about the latest retail theft statistics. This post provides a snapshot of what retailers currently face when it comes to loss and theft.

Inventory Shrink

Inventory shrinkage refers to the difference between the merchandise a retailer shows in its records and the actual physical count of merchandise on hand. This difference can be attributed to operational errors, internal loss, and/or external loss. Shrink is an inevitability in the retail environment, but loss caused by retail theft is something LP and asset protection professionals work hard to prevent.

Results from 2016 National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), which were released during the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) PROTECT conference in June 2016, report that inventory shrink accounted for 1.38 percent of retail sales, or $45.2 billion, in 2015. In addition, more than 48 percent of retailer participants reported an increase in inventory shrink in 2015. The NRSS is the result of a collaborative effort with the University of Florida and has been overseen by Dr. Richard Hollinger for 25 years.

Shoplifters and Organized Retail Crime

Shoplifting and organized retail crime are major contributors to the external loss component of inventory shrink. The NRSS indicates that shoplifting accounted for 39 percent of the reported shrink in 2015—by far the largest contributing factor to retail loss in the survey. The average loss was about $377 per shoplifting incident, up from nearly $60 in 2014. This is the second sequential year that shoplifting has surpassed employee theft as the largest contributor to inventory shrink in the United States.

The annual retail crime survey put forth by the British Retail Consortium reports that the costs of retail crime in the UK reached £613 million (~ $763 million USD) in 2015. Theft by customers reportedly accounts for nearly 83 percent of that cost, with an average value of goods stolen climbing to nearly £325 (~ $404) per incident.

Employee Theft

Employee theft, also known as internal theft, occurs when employees steal from the organization where they are employed. Retailers that participated in the 2016 NRSS say that employee/internal theft amounted to 35.8 percent of inventory shrink in 2015. The report also found that the average loss of dishonest employee cases dropped from $1,546.83 to $1,233.77.

Other Retail Theft Statistics

According to the Jack L. Hayes International 29th Annual Retail Theft Survey, more than 438,032 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2016 by 23 major retailers. These shoplifter apprehensions showed a decrease of 0.2 percent over 2015, while dishonest employee apprehensions increased nearly 10 percent over 2015. More than $120 million was recovered from the thieves – up about 2.5 percent from 2015.

According to the report, for every $1 recovery made by the retailers that responded to the survey, $12.82 was lost to retail theft. Hayes International consultants therefore calculated that only 7.8 percent of total retail theft losses resulted in a recovery.

This article was originally published in 2016 and was updated June 20, 2017. 

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  • Learning about the retail shrink was really informative. That’s crazy to think that 44 billion dollars were stolen in goods in 2014. When I worked retail they had all sorts of cameras. I can see why some retail stores hire retail security.


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