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Breaking News in the Industry: August 1, 2018

WATCH: Thieves flee with designer bags

Police are seeking two men who scooped up designer purses, then fled from a store at Gloucester Premium Outlets in New Jersey. The men fled from the Michael Kors store with handbags valued at about $5,500, Gloucester Township police said Sunday. A surveillance video showed the men grabbing numerous bags from a display area near an entrance, then bolting from the store. The men were reported to have fled in a mint green sedan, police said. Sunday’s police account did not say when the incident occurred. Anyone with information is asked to call the Anonymous Tip Line at 856.842.5560.   [Source: Courier Post]

Seven charged in robbery spree at cellphone stores

Six teens and a 20-year-old man were charged in connection with five recent thefts at cellphone stores in Fayetteville, North Carolina, police said Monday. The incidents took place between June 19 and July 16 and targeted Verizon and AT&T stores. The Verizon store in the 1900 block of Skibo Road was robbed June 19 and July 4. The AT&T store also in the 1900 block of Skibo Road was robbed July 10 and 16. Another AT&T store in the 4600 block of Ramsey Street was hit on July 2, police said. Police said the thefts happened when the suspects picked up cellphones in the stores, “defeated the anti-theft devices,” and then ran out of the stores while carrying the phones. Two of the seven suspects have not been caught, but police have filed charges against them. Police said the following are those arrested along with their charges:

  • Jacob Lee Dickerson, 18, is still sought after being charged with 10 counts of felony conspiracy, four counts of felony possession of stolen goods, three counts of felony larceny and removal of anti-theft device.
  • Aumrey Oliver, 17, is being sought after he was charged with eight counts of felony conspiracy, three counts of removal of anti-theft device, felony larceny, felony possession of stolen goods, misdemeanor possession of stolen goods, and misdemeanor larceny.
  • Gharen Tarel Terry, 20, was arrested Thursday and charged with nine counts of felony conspiracy.
  • Angelina Sherrod, 19, was arrested Wednesday and charged with obtaining property by false pretense.
  • Desmond Devone Autry, 19, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretense, felony possession of stolen goods and removal of anti-theft device.
  • Day’Janara Marie Saunders, 18, was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretense, two counts of conspiracy, and felony larceny.
    JhaNyriah Tajnae Peterson, 18, was arrested last Tuesday and charged with obtaining property by false pretense and felony possession of stolen goods.    [Source: CBS17 News]

Police arrest suspect who pulled knife after shoplifting

A man is in custody Monday, July 30, evening after taking merchandise from a Fred Meyer in Eugene, Oregon, threatening loss prevention associates with a knife, then fleeing the store. Eugene Police said the incident began as a low-level, misdemeanor offense, and turned into a serious felony.

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They said they received a call for a shoplifting incident at Fred Meyer just before 8 p.m., and were told the alleged suspect was contacted by loss prevention associates at the store. That’s when police said he “pulled two knives on loss prevention officers,” then fled on foot. EPD said the man fled into the wetlands adjacent to West 5th Avenue and Bailey Hill Road. Six to eight EPD units, including two EPD K9 units, arrived on scene and said they apprehended the suspect within 45 minutes.

The suspect, identified as 36-year-old Michael Blair Uhrich, was captured after the K9 unit tracked him near Bailey Hill and W. 5th Avenue as he ran through wetlands. “Fortunately, we had time on our side and we were able to get other units in the area and create a contained area,” said Sergeant Gregg Magnus with the Eugene Police Department. “It’s not a heavily traveled area as well, so we don’t have to worry about a lot of other people out there. (It) just allows our K9s to go there and do their jobs and have a safe resolution to it.” Sergeant Magnus said nobody, including K9s, were injured during the incident. Uhrich was charged with first degree robbery and warrants. He is booked at the Lane County Jail.   [Source: KVAL13 News]

Five retailers using tech to create futuristic stores

The robot apocalypse might start at the store. Big-box retailers and grocery stores began their move to automation with the inclusion of self-checkout lanes that first appeared back in 1992 at a Price Chopper supermarket in New York. Recently, major retailers began researching other tasks that could be done by a robot instead of a human, especially menial tasks such as checking price tags, seeing what needs to be restocked and even guiding customers to the items they want.

“I think [automation] means customer service becomes better,” said Diane Lim, principal economist at the Conference Board. “It’s not displacing jobs that anyone wants or values.” She says once the menial tasks are automated, employees working at the stores will have a level of skill to provide better customer service and earn a higher wage.  Retailers that do attempt a “store of the future” filled with robots and drones, however, would need to make sure it still appeals to shoppers.

Walmart may not appear to be on the cutting edge of technology, but the patents it filed in March tell a different story. One patent application explained how stores will have personal shopping assistant drones. Customers will be able to use their mobile device to call over a drone that will verify prices and guide a customer to the item he or she wants. Considering how many customers visit a store, future Walmarts could be full of drones flying around.

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Best Buy
At one Best Buy location, a robot is performing all the duties of a regular worker. The big-box retailer has a robot named Chloe at one of its New York stores — the robotic arm in a glass enclosure can grab music, games, headphones and other small electronics for customers who placed their orders at a kiosk. Customers receive their items from the robot, which gives a smile and a thank you on its display screen.

Lowe’s developed its own robot, LoweBot, that handled multiple simple tasks during a two-year test pilot program at five stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. First shown off in 2016, LoweBot greeted customers and guided them to the product they wanted. It also could scan aisles for what products were in and out of stock. The home improvement retailer plans to analyze the data from the test and implement some of the technology across stores in the future.

Kroger has a similar technology to give customers more info when they shop. Called the Kroger Edge, the new smart shelves are available in 16 stores, with plans to have the tech in 120 stores by the end of 2018. Not only will these digital shelves display the current price of an item, but they also can light up to bring attention to a certain product. The new tech would remove the time-consuming task of changing out price tags.

Target also is looking to robots to handle simple tasks. Back in 2016, the Minneapolis-based retailer tested a robot, Tally, by Simbe Robotics Inc., which went up and down the aisles scanning for items that were misplaced, mispriced or low on stock. It only was tested for a short time at a Target store in downtown San Francisco, but Simbe Robotics said Midwest grocery chain Schnucks uses Tally.   [Source: The Street]

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Grocery chain to ban Visa credit cards

Foods Co., a unit of Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., will no longer accept payment from customers using credit cards issued by Visa, the largest credit card company in the U.S.  The grocery store chain announced the policy change on Monday, saying it was due to Visa’s interchange rates, which merchants pay to banks whenever a customer uses a corresponding card at the store. “Visa’s rates and fees are among the highest of any credit card brand,” Foods Co. said in a statement. “The savings will be passed along to Foods Co. customers in the form of low everyday prices on the items shoppers purchase most.”

A spokesman for Kroger said the parent company was prepared to follow the lead of Foods Co. if the amount retailers paid to the bank remains “out of alignment,” according to Bloomberg. Foods Co. will stop accepting Visa credit cards – but not debit cards – as payment beginning on Aug. 14. The policy will affect 21 stores and five gas stations in California. In a statement to FOX Business, a Visa spokesperson said the bank was disappointed by the decision and remained committed to working with the grocer to “reach a reasonable solution.”   [Source: Fox Business]

A brief history of shoplifting rings

Retail stores these days are looking a little paranoid. There are cameras and mirrors everywhere, employees counting your items, sensors the size of your head attached to clothing, and security guards making you feel like maybe you should apologize for entering the place. But a recent video of three women scooping up nearly $10,000 worth of clothing from Lululemon might give you a clue as to how all that surveillance can be useful. Not that cameras actually prevented the women from placing 148 pairs of leggings in their bags and walking right out the door and onto the streets of Fresno, California, on Sunday.

“For me, I was just shocked, and I froze,” Christine Brown, a yoga teacher who was at the store, told ABC affiliate KFSN. She says the women calmly walked to the back of the store, stuffed leggings into their bags, and calmly left. Just after the story broke on Tuesday, the same women allegedly returned to the same store and stole again. Employees took no action, because the store’s policy instructs them not to chase anyone who’s left the store, but the manager of a nearby business managed to wrestle away one of their shopping bags.

Police were astonished by how bold they were, but they also suspect this is part of a string of 15 Lululemon thefts that have occurred this month. These legging bandits are just the latest in a decades-long history of big-time shoplifting. Perhaps in a nod to the fact that many assume shoplifting is the domain of rebellious teenagers, the industry now uses the term “organized retail crime.” Law enforcement first started noticing this as a serious problem back in the ’90s, as this  Washington Post article from 1995 indicates. The National Retail Federation estimates that this kind of theft costs retailers $30 billion a year. Here are some of the biggest and boldest shoplifting rings in recent history:

Publix. In 2008, police in Lakeland, Fla., busted two women for stealing $4,500 worth of Oil of Olay products from a Publix supermarket. That eventually led to the discovery of a ring of 13 people (all related to each other in some way) that had stolen $100 million worth of drugstore items that they resold on eBay. “We buy overstock, discontinued and shelf pull items by the case or pallet,” said their seller’s profile, according to the Ledger.

Victoria’s Secret. Discovered pursuing what Michigan police initially thought was a meth-producing operation eventually led them to a well-organized warehouse packed with merchandise from drugstores and $3 million worth of Victoria’s Secret items in 2014. The thieves, including a mother-daughter team, would wear clothing modified with compartments that allowed them to stash their goods and get away with stealing up to $15,000 per person, per day.

Abercrombie and Fitch
. In 2017, feds indicted 22 people in connection with a theft ring that reportedly stole around $20 million worth of goods from mall clothing retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, and Guess. Thieves would use “booster bags,” which are lined with material that blocks security sensors, to steal from stores across the country. The ring had allegedly been operating since 2005 and was reselling the merchandise in stores in Tijuana, Mexico.

Geek Squad Foiled
. In 2017, New York investigators took down a ring that was using high-tech methods to steal $12 million worth of electronics from stores like Best Buy, Home Depot, and Staples on Long Island. The thieves wore special vests, had devices that disarmed security alarms, and listened to store security personnel with short-wave radios. After they pulled a job, their boss would sell the goods on eBay and Amazon. Makes you wonder about those great deals you find online. None of these crimes justify the kind of racial profiling many have reported experiencing in retail stores. People of all races have been pulling off these huge crimes.   [Source: Yahoo Lifestyle]

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