Breaking News in the Industry: September 13, 2018

Burglars busted for swiping $36K in Gucci products from department store

The crew of burglars who targeted a Saks Fifth Avenue in Montgomery County, Maryland, have come to realize that crime does always not pay. As of this week, five of the seven alleged suspects who swiped $36,000 in merchandise from the luxury department store have been charged with a variety of theft counts. Two suspects remain at large.

On the morning of Tuesday, July 31, all was calm and orderly at the Friendship Heights Saks location. Shoppers perused the clothing racks as associates assisted with customer inquiries. But then around 11:30 a.m., a pack of seven “smash and grab” burglars stormed through the front doors and headed straight for the Gucci section. An employee shouted for security as the crew lifted pricey purses, handbags and belts from shelves and tables. In their haste, the group broke two glass displays, worth approximately $5,000.

According to court documents, a few of the suspects briefly assaulted two Gucci salespeople. The store’s loss prevention associate, who happened to be outside at the time of the incident, intercepted the group as they ran off with 12 handbags and purses, plus 20 belts. Each belt retailed for $500. The purses’ combined sticker price was around $26,000. The loss prevention associate witnessed the suspects pile into two waiting vehicles, a Volkswagen and Toyota. A passerby managed to take a photo of the VW’s Maryland license plate. That piece of evidence, combined with the store’s surveillance video helped detectives compile their case.   [Source: ABC7 WJLA News]

Fourteen years for suspect in burglary; identity theft scheme

A Westchester man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing merchandise from Cook County stores and returning it for credit in Lombard, Illinois. Jason Hodges, 43, of the 700 block of Hull Avenue, was convicted by a DuPage County jury in May of four counts each of burglary and retail theft, two counts of identity theft and one count of theft. Lombard police led the investigation into Hodges’ illegal activity, which occurred between May 12 and June 5, 2014. Through the course of their investigation, police learned that on at least four occasions, Hodges purchased merchandise using stolen credit card information from four separate TJ Maxx/Marshalls stores in Cook County.

Prosecutors said Hodges would then return the stolen merchandise to the TJ Maxx/Marshalls store in Lombard and receive a credit on his own personal credit card. All of the purchases were under the $300 felony threshold, but prosecutors were able to charge the burglaries as felonies due to Hodges’ extensive criminal background. Prosecutors estimated Hodges received more than $17,000 worth of credit from TJ Maxx/Marshalls. “It is estimated that shoplifting costs United States retailers nearly $18 billion last year,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a written statement. “That astronomical amount of money not only causes a great hardship to retailers, but it is also passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.” Hodges will be required to serve half his sentence before being eligible for parole. He will receive credit for time served in custody since the jury’s guilty verdict on May 10.   [Source: Daily Herald]

What Hurricane Florence could do to restaurants and retailers

Hurricane Florence’s economic impact will likely be less than Hurricane Harvey’s, because it’s bearing down on smaller cities. Nonetheless, retailers and restaurants will likely see some kind of hit. Last year’s deadly hurricane season had plenty of economic impact, especially given the widespread damage in Houston. It’s too early to tell exactly how Florence will swing through the mid-Atlantic coast, but Jefferies breaks down which companies are in its potential path.

As the Carolinas brace for rough weather, it’s hard not to think of the widespread destruction brought by last year’s devastatingly powerful storm season. Places like Puerto Rico are still struggling with the aftermath. Nonetheless, from a purely economic perspective, it’s unlikely that Florence will have the same impact as Harvey, as a Jefferies team, led by Andy Barish, argues, given that Harvey pummeled the nation’s fourth-largest city. Yet some of the big wildcards are how much Florence will hit Charlotte and the Washington, D.C. area. At this stage, it’s hard to say what path the storm will take and how bad the damage will be. Until we know how bad wind, power outages and flooding are, we won’t know how much home and business repair will be needed.

Still, Barish argues that there is already some hyperbole out there concerning the pain for restaurants and retailers. Just adding up the store bases in North and South Carolina and Virginia is an oversimplification, he argues, while his research suggests that only low- to mid-single-digit percentages of most companies’ stores will be affected. Still, some companies do look more exposed than others. For example, Bojangles and Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize have more than 20% exposure to a landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina. And Noodles & Co., BJ’s Wholesale Holdings, Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Five Below, and Chipotle Mexican Grill have more than 8% exposure if the storm lands in the Virginia Beach area.

Barish writes that overall, casual dining restaurants are more likely to take a hit from Florence than quick-serve restaurants, but restaurants in general could get a bit of a boost on a same-store-sales basis. He points out that this year’s figures will be compared with numbers dragged lower by Harvey last year, and that rebuilding activity could spur sales in October and November. “The impact from Harvey on home improvement has been prolonged as much of the damage was water based, and the same could happen with Florence,” he writes. Floor & Decor saw an 8.2 percentage-point boost to same-store sales growth from Harvey in the last quarter of 2017, while larger chains Home Depot and Lowe’s saw material but smaller benefits. Broadline and discount retailers including Walmart and Dollar General could see modest boosts to comparable sales, as last year’s storms added at least 0.30 percentage point to Dollar General’s and Walmart’s U.S. same-store sales. On a personal level, we echo Barish’s advice to err on the side of caution if you’re in the storm’s path. Stay safe, everyone!   [Source: Barron’s]

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Suspect in shoplifting case arrested after leading police on pursuit

A 27-year-old Griffith, Indiana, man suspected of shoplifting in Valparaiso was taken into custody Monday night after leading police on a pursuit that ended when he drove off the road and became stuck in mud in the Stonegate subdivision, police said. Valparaiso police were dispatched to the Walmart off U.S. 30 at 10:13 p.m. for a report of a man who stole two large-screen TVs and was leaving the parking lot, Sgt. Michael Grennes said. An officer located a silver Ford Escape with a TV sticking out of the back of it near Penna Hill Drive and Sturdy Road, he said.

The officer attempted to stop the Ford, but the driver sped off south on Sturdy. The officer continued to attempt a traffic stop for about a mile but decided to end the chase because it was too dangerous to continue, Grennes said. The driver was traveling at 70 mph in a 30 mph zone, and the area is hilly, he said. The man later struck a vehicle on Division Road in Porter County and continued driving, Winfield Town Marshal Dan Ball said. It was unclear if anyone was injured in the crash.

Winfield police joined the pursuit when the man entered their jurisdiction near East 101st Avenue and County Line Road, Ball said. The man drove off the road at a construction site and became stuck in the mud near 123rd Avenue and Randolph Street in the Stonegate subdivision. He was arrested and taken to a local hospital.

Winfield police were working with Valparaiso police and the Porter County Sheriff’s Department to determine charges, Ball said. The man was accused of stealing a 55-inch TV and a 39-inch TV, valued at $368 and $200, respectively, from the Walmart, Grennes said. Valparaiso police had the license plate number for the Ford and surveillance photos from the man from Walmart, he said. Valparaiso police forwarded two counts of reckless driving against the man to the Porter County prosecutor’s office for review, he said.   [Source: NWI Times]

New York man arraigned in theft ring

Authorities have apprehended one of two New York men charged by the Pennsylvania State Police in a retail theft ring that targeted Walmart stores in and around Erie County earlier this year. Todd L. Jackson, 21, of Rochester, New York, was in the Erie County Prison on $50,000 bond Wednesday after he was brought to Erie from Rochester and arraigned Tuesday afternoon on charges including felony counts of organized retail theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy. The second suspect, 28-year-old Rochester resident Darin L. Thompson, remained at large Wednesday.

Investigators with the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigations Erie office accuse Jackson and Thompson of being connected to a corrupt organization that targeted Walmart stores in Erie, Crawford and Bradford counties and stole printer inkjet cartridges and other high-value merchandise between March and June. At least eight to 10 suspects are believed to be involved in the retail theft ring, and none are believed to live in the Erie area, investigators said at the time the charges were filed against Jackson and Thompson in mid-August.

Investigators said the suspects would commit the thefts by visiting a 24-hour Walmart in the early-morning hours, grabbing a plastic storage tub on display at the store and filling the tub with printer cartridges and other electronic items that they would take without paying for the items, according to information in the criminal complaints against Thompson and Jackson. Merchandise valued at between $1,065 and $8,509.54 was stolen during visits to Walmart stores in Meadville, Edinboro, Harborcreek Township, Millcreek Township, Summit Township and Sayre in Bradford County between March 17 and June 18, according to the complaints. [Source: Go Erie]

Five arrested in shoplifting scheme

In Tennessee, Knoxville police arrested five people accused in a shoplifting scheme at a local Walmart on Monday night.  Police responded just after 9:30 p.m. to the Walmart on Kinzel Way near Knoxville Center Mall. Walmart loss prevention told an officer there were five shoplifters working together who were preparing to escape, according to a Knoxville Police Department news release. One person exited the store and acted as a lookout for the others. Once outside, the group members abandoned their items, police said they had “a felony amount of merchandise” and ran. Police ultimately arrested all five people, including two who were wanted on shoplifting charges out of Georgia.   [Source: Knox News]

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