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Breaking News in the Industry: August 6, 2018

Four accused of stealing $200K in items in 60 cases of multi-city store thefts

Police arrested four people in connection with more than 60 thefts from department stores in Charlotte, North Carolina, and surrounding areas. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Tyrae Coleman, 19, Michael Dugger, 32, Derrell Woods, 35 and Camry Johnson, 16, were charged for their involvement in these cases. Detectives believe that this group is responsible for at least 60 cases that involve more than $200,000 in stolen merchandise from TJ Maxx and Victoria’s Secret stores in Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia and Rock Hill.

A fifth suspect, Vannostrand Arnold, 25, was also charged in connection with this series of crimes. In February. 2018, detectives identified several people who were responsible for multiple thefts that happened at local TJ Maxx and Victoria’s Secret stores. During the investigation, detectives were able to identify the names of the people involved and obtained warrants for their arrest. On Thursday, loss prevention associates from TJ Maxx called a detective and told them the wanted suspects just stole from the store located in the 12700 block of South Tryon Street.

According to the LP associates, two males and a female walked in the store and cut off security devices to several Michael Kors purses. They ran out of the store with the purses and got into a waiting vehicle.  The detective immediately notified Steele Creek Division officers who found the thieves in a car nearby. Patrol officers followed the car and conducted a traffic stop on I-77 and were able to arrest the four people without incident. While searching the car, officers discovered the stolen purses from TJ Maxx along with several wire cutters.

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Coleman was charged with ten counts of felony larceny, six counts of felony conspiracy, possession of burglary tools and larceny from a merchant by deactivation/device. Dugger was charged with four counts of felony larceny and four counts of felony conspiracy. Woods was charged with aid and abet. Johnson was charged with felony larceny and felony conspiracy. The four people were then transferred to the custody of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. The investigations are still active and ongoing and additional arrests and charges are expected. Anyone with information concerning these cases or the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704.334.1600.    [Source: WBTV3 News]

Five charged in shoplifting scheme

Five people from Jersey City were arrested in a shoplifting scheme at the Walmart in Secaucus, authorities said. Makebar Gantt, 45, was charged with shoplifting, conspiracy and possession of drug paraphernalia, Secaucus police Captain Dennis Miller said.  Kalik Eason, 36, Daniel Little, 49, and Zary Picart, 45, were charged with conspiracy; while Little was also charged with being under the influence of drugs, and Picart was charged with hindering apprehension.  Jargett Washington,34, was charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, possession of cocaine and PCP and being under the influence of drugs, Miller said. Eason, Little and Picart also had outstanding warrants. Miller said police responded to the Walmart at 1:43 p.m. on July 28 on a report of shoplifting and found that the five Jersey City residents were acting in concert in an attempt to steal large-screen televisions. All five were taken to Hudson County jail in Kearny.   [Source:]

Quirky specialty gift retailer to close mall stores

Brookstone, whose quirky products are staples of airport shopping, filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to rid the company of burdensome leases and inventory by getting out of malls. The company operates two stores in malls in the Puget Sound area, at Bellevue Square and at Alderwood mall, in Lynnwood. The Chapter 11 petition lists assets of $50 million to $100 million and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million, according to court documents filed Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware.

The specialty-gift retailer, which sells everything from remote-control drones to massage chairs, is the latest in a spate of bankruptcies in an industry beaten down by online competition and a surfeit of stores. Mall tenants in particular have suffered, leading to bankruptcies like Gymboree and Rue 21, which reorganized with fewer stores. Other merchants like Bon-Ton Stores didn’t survive. Brookstone operates 137 stores across 40 states and Puerto Rico, with “substantially all” of the mall outlets slated for closure, according to the filing. The mall stores have lost money each year since 2014, the papers show, while the 35 airport stores have been profitable and won’t be included in the closings.

The goal is to “sell a streamlined and healthy business to a bidder that can operate under the Brookstone brand into perpetuity” before the end of September. Before the bankruptcy, Brookstone hired Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources to manage the store closings. This will be Brookstone’s second trip to bankruptcy court since 2014, when the Merrimack, New Hampshire-based company filed a Chapter 11 petition with a deal to sell its assets to Spencer Spirit Holdings for about $146.3 million.

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A group of Chinese buyers backed by retailing conglomerate Sanpower Group and Hong Kong-based private-equity firm Sailing Capital subsequently outbid Spencer with a deal valued at about $174 million. The 53-year-old company began with an ad placed in Popular Mechanics, according to its website, and was named after the farm where the founders lived. In 1973, it expanded from its catalog offerings — with items like self-watering plant pots — to open its first store. The company says it helped introduce brands such as Fitbit and iRobot to American consumers.   [Source: The Seattle News]

Shoplifter who fled from police gets prison time

Sentencing has been handed down to a Detroit woman who fled from police after she was caught shoplifting at a local store.

23-year-old Lamika Samon James will serve 40 months to 15 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh sentenced James Thursday in Livingston County Circuit Court. James had previously pleaded guilty as charged to 3rd degree fleeing a police officer and organized retail crime as a fourth-time habitual offender.

Charges of 1st degree retail fraud, driving on a suspended license and providing false identification to a police officer were dismissed in exchange for her plea. 

The charges stem from the March 22nd incident at the Kohl’s store off of Whitmore Lake Road in Brighton. Green Oak Township Police were called out to the store for a retail fraud in progress report in which a suspect was seen removing security devices from high-end electronics and placing them in a bag. The suspect, later identified as James, reportedly refused to stop when confronted by store loss prevention and fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival.

Police were able to locate the vehicle and gave chase along Whitmore Lake Road, southbound US-23 and then east on M-14. James eventually lost control of the vehicle and crashed just west of I-275 near Sheldon Road. She was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Livonia and told officers she was a 16-year-old juvenile who resides in Detroit. James’ mother arrived at the hospital and stated the same. Police say investigation soon revealed that information was false as James is not a juvenile, but rather a 23-year-old parole absconder that has been wanted by the Michigan Department of Corrections since December 2017.   [Source: WHMI News]

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Store manager charged with theft

A manager at an Alabama Dollar General store, who reported being robbed, has been arrested and charged with theft after authorities investigated the incident, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said. Limber Flatt Foster, 44, 506 Sharpley Road, Danville, was charged with second-degree theft and false reporting of an incident and placed in the Lawrence County Jail on Friday, according to Sheriff Gene Mitchell. She paid a $10,500 bail and was released, the sheriff said.

On July 23, Foster, the manager of the Langtown Dollar General store at 20222 Alabama 33, reported she was taking the store’s morning deposit to the bank at about 11:28 a.m. Mitchell said she said when she reached her car, a white male wearing a hoodie and black pants approached her from behind and took the money bag and ran into a wooded area behind the store. Lawrence County deputies and Moulton police arrived at the scene and searched for the suspect with no success, Mitchell said. He said investigators later found inconsistencies with Foster’s account of the incident. He said investigators also reviewed the case with the store’s district manager before arresting Foster on Friday. “We believe there are other people involved in this crime,” Mitchell said. “The investigation is continuing.”    [Source: Decatur Daily]

Grocery-picking robots unveiled in test store

There could be a future where robots will do most of your grocery shopping for you. And for some Walmart shoppers, that future is getting even closer. Walmart, the world’s largest seller of groceries, will begin piloting a robotics system for its fast-growing online grocery pickup (OGP) service in one of its stores. The retailer has teamed up with Massachusetts-based Alert Innovation to deploy its Alphabot, a first-of-its-kind technology, in its SuperCenter store in Salem, New Hampshire just off of Interstate 93.

“This is about the evolution of retail,” Alert Innovation CEO John Lert told Yahoo Finance. “So, we believe that this really marks the dawn of a new era and in which robots are going to increasingly pick orders for customers and relieve them of that burden.”  Alphabot automates specific steps of the online grocery pickup process by using autonomous mobile carts to gather shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen items from a high-density storage system. Alphabot’s robotic carts retrieve and deliver these items to store associates to quickly fulfill online orders. What’s more, all of this happens at the back of the store, out of the view of customers.

An inventor, who as one person put it is the “Walt Disney of retail,” Lert has envisioned a supermarket that would deploy robots for more than 24 years, well before the rise of e-commerce. “My passion was trying to figure out how to automate a supermarket,” he said. He explained that while there’s value in shopping for fresh items like peaches and steak, pacing grocery store aisles for packaged goods is a “chore” for the customer who is essentially an “unpaid warehouse worker filling their own orders.”

Alphabot is supposed to make the job of the customer and the associate easier. Its aim is to allow associates to complete more orders faster than they would by simply walking up and down the aisles in search of goods. It also frees up time for associates to carefully select fresh produce and meat while the robots do the other work behind the scenes. For the customer, it saves time and keeps prices low.    [Source: Yahoo! Finance]

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