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Breaking News in the Industry: March 29, 2018

Man charged after theft spree uses kids to target nine stores

Police say Donald Abner led a theft team, including two adults and three kids, targeting stores at the Charleston Town Center Mall and Southridge shopping center in Charleston, West Virginia. Misty Lynn Duvall also faces charges, police say. Officers allege she and the kids helped distract store employees during the thefts. Police say on Tuesday, March 27, Donald Abner Jr., 38, was arrested on charges from an incident earlier in the month. After investigating, police say they found their second suspect — Duvall. Police say Abner drove from Raleigh County to Charleston, picked up Duvall and the kids and started shoplifting at the Town Center. At times, they used the kids and woman to distract store employees so the thefts could go unnoticed. After the Town Center, police say Abner drove the team to Southridge where they continued stealing, hitting Target, Macy’s, Dressbarn, Casual Male XL, Lane Bryant, Justice and Kohl’s — among others. But it not only costs retailers when thefts like this happen. It’s money out of your pocket, too. Stores have to make up for the loss, and they often do that through higher prices. One study analyzed by ‘Fortune’ reports consumers are on the hook for more than $400 extra a year. The theft team was able to make off with over $2,000 worth of items, according to police. One of the charges Abner and Duvall face, organized retail theft, is a relatively new criminal charge created with the 2017 legislature. Lawmakers at the time said it was in response to the continuing drug issues plaguing the region. [Source: WSAZ NewsChannel3]

LP associate wrestles with teen girl accused of stealing [Viral Video]

A widely circulated online video has fueled debate about whether a Kroger loss prevention associate used excessive force when wrestling with a 16-year-old girl accused of stealing. According to a police report, 32-year-old Tom Clingo — who works as an LP associate in Toledo, Ohio — pinned the juvenile to the ground when she and another juvenile were approached about “miscellaneous items” they tried to take without paying. Before she was dragged to the ground, the teenager tried kicking and punching Mr. Clingo and later bit him in the chest, the report states. Roughly 10 to 12 other customers gathered around the area and shouted throughout the incident. The other juvenile fled the scene and had not been arrested as of Monday afternoon. Much of the altercation was captured on video that has been viewed over 145,000 times on Facebook and had been shared by more than 3,500 users.

Many on Facebook took issue with the video’s depiction of how Clingo handled the situation, accusing him of being too rough with the juvenile. Others criticized those seen watching the altercation but not intervening,  while some defended Clingo’s actions as warranted given the circumstances. Facebook has labeled the video with a warning. “This video may show violence against a child or teenager,” the warning said. Clingo declined comment and said Kroger told him to relay questions to Toledo Police Department. A Kroger manager declined comment Monday, only adding, “everything’s in the report.” Toledo Police Department spokesman Sgt. Kevan Toney said the juvenile was arrested and charged with robbery, while Clingo was not charged with any crime. Sgt. Toney said the juvenile would’ve been charged with theft but she used force in an effort to get away. He added that his department has received questions about whether his officers used too much force, but he clarified Clingo works at Kroger, not for TPD.  [Source: The Toledo Blade]

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No need to sign on dotted line: Credit cards are phasing out signatures

Attention credit card users: Starting in April, you probably won’t have to scrawl your name on a scrap of paper or an electronic monitor when you make a purchase. Mastercard, Discover, American Express and Visa have all announced that they are limiting or totally slashing policies requiring you to make your mark. They say it’s because of advances in technology that make fraud less likely. The company policies differ slightly. Here is what each is introducing next month:

  • Mastercard: Back in October, this was the first company to announce changes in signature requirements. It said it “will no longer require signatures at checkout for any credit or debit purchases in Canada and the U.S.”
  • Discover: The credit card company said it will “no longer require signatures at the point of sale for credit and debit transactions on the Discover Global Network in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”
  • American Express: This is the only credit card company that eliminated the requirement worldwide, for all merchants that accept American Express, starting in April. Both Discover and American Express announced the changes in December.
  • Visa: The company said in January that it is making the requirement optional for merchants that use EMV chip technology in North America, starting in April.

The change is designed to speed up the checkout process, and it also means that merchants won’t have to store signatures after the fact. “The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants,” Jaromir Divilek, executive vice president for Global Network Business at American Express, said in a statement. “Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud.”  [Source: NPR]

Shoplifting suspect punched LP associate in head during escape

Police in Columbus, Ohio, are looking for a person who punched a Family Dollar employee while trying to leave the store without paying. It happened at the Family Dollar at 2485 E. Dublin Granville Rd. around 9:53am on March 11. Police say the suspect loaded a shopping cart full of items and then went for the doors. As loss prevention associates tried to stop the suspect, the suspect turned around and punched an associate in the face, knocking the employee to the ground. The suspect was seen getting into an older vehicle, possibly a red Toyota Camry. The suspect was described as having female attributes. The suspect was around 30 years old,  stood around 5’10” and weighed around 180 pounds. The suspect was wearing glasses and a knit cap.  [Source: NBC4i News]

After Christmas ‘shopping spree’ lands career criminal behind bars again

A career criminal in Tennessee faces up to a dozen years behind bars after an illegal shopping spree at a local Walmart. Curtis Logan Lawson, 36, was convicted of Burglary, Theft, and Criminal Trespass in Knox County Criminal Court this week. It was his twenty-third felony conviction. Prosecutors said Lawson entered the Walmart at University Commons the day after Christmas in 2016, even though he had been banned from the retail chain after a previous conviction. Loss prevention officers watched as Lawson took items from the shelves to match a receipt he’d brought to the store with him, intending to return those items for cash. Instead, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Organized Retail Crime Unit arrested him. His sentencing was set for May 11.  [Source: WBIR10 News]

A fashion giant has a problem: $4.3 billion in unsold clothes

In the world of fashion retailing, where shopping is fast moving online and stores try to keep inventories closely matched to sales, even a small stack of unsold clothes can be a bad sign. What about a $4.3 billion pile of shirts, dresses and accessories? That is the problem facing H&M, the Swedish fashion retailer, which is struggling with a mounting stack of unsold inventory. H&M outlined the buildup in its latest quarterly report on Tuesday, prompting questions of whether the company is able to adapt to the fierce competition and changing consumer demands reshaping the global apparel market. Signs of its expanding unsold inventory began emerging last year, when it reported an unexpected quarterly drop in sales. The decline was the first in two decades, a period in which H&M expanded from a lone women’s wear store west of Stockholm to a gargantuan network of 4,700 stores around the world.

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Foot traffic in the past year fell as customers eschewed crowded shop floors in favor of online shopping, or lower-cost offerings elsewhere, a challenge hitting a wide array of “fast fashion” retailers. On Tuesday, the company said the pile of unsold stock had grown 7 percent in the past year and was now worth nearly 35 billion Swedish kronor. The scale of the problem illustrates H&M’s vast size — as one of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers, it produces hundreds of millions of items each year. There are so many that a power plant in Vasteras, the town where H&M founded its first store, relies partly on burning defective products the retailer cannot sell to create energy.  Analysts have been pressing Karl-Johan Persson, the company’s chief executive, over the issue. Inventory levels were up, Mr. Persson said, because H&M was opening 220 new stores and expanding its e-commerce operations, and so needed to fill the racks. Critics, however, blamed poor inventory management and underwhelming product offerings, prompting once-loyal shoppers to take their wallets elsewhere.  [Source: The New York Times]

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