Retail Theft Cases “Soared” in 2018 According to Recent Survey

Report claims shoplifters and dishonest employees continue to steal in record numbers

Over 279,000 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2018 by just 20 large retailers who recovered over $114 million from these thieves, according to the 31st Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International.

Mark Doyle

“Theft case values soared in 2018 with the average shoplifting case value ($301.97) increasing 11.8%; the average dishonest employee case value ($1,361.37) increasing an amazing 30.1%; and the total average theft case value ($408.77) up 17.0%! While the retailers participating in this survey did not apprehend as many thieves as they did the previous year, they were recovering more dollars from the thieves they did apprehend,” said Mark R. Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes International. “With the increase in dollar recoveries, retail theft overall continues to be a serious problem for retailers negatively impacting their bottom-line, which results in higher prices to consumers.”

Highlights from this annual theft survey include:

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  • Participants: 20 large retail companies with 13,674 stores and over $330 billion in retail sales (2018).
  • Apprehensions: 279,196 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2018, down 11.8% from 2017.
  • Recovery Dollars: Over $114 million was recovered from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2018, up 3.2% from 2017.
  • Shoplifter Apprehensions: 251,051 shoplifters were apprehended in 2018, down 11.7% from 2017.
  • Shoplifter Recovery Dollars: Over $75 million was recovered from apprehended shoplifters in 2018, a decrease of 1.4% from 2017.
  • Employee Apprehensions: 28,145 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2018, down 12.7% from 2017.
  • Employee Recovery Dollars: Over $38 million was recovered from employee apprehensions in 2018, up 13.5% from 2017.
  • Average Case Values: Total Theft: up 17.0%; Shoplifters: up 11.8%; Dishonest Employees: up 30.1%
  • Shrink: 55.0% of survey participants reported an increase in shrink in 2018, with 35.0% reporting a decrease in shrink, and another 10.0% reported shrink stayed about the same.

Hayes International cites the following shoplifting issues:

Reduced Customer Service Due to Fewer Sales Associates on Floor. Fewer sales associates on the sales floor provides shoplifters with the privacy they want/need to commit their acts of theft. Unfortunately, more retailers are becoming self-service, instead of customer service focused.

Shoplifting Felony Thresholds Increasing. There are currently 29 states with a felony threshold for Shoplifting/Larceny of $1,000 or higher. Shoplifting cases less than these high dollar thresholds result in a misdemeanor offense only, meaning less police assistance and little if any punishment. Thieves view shoplifting as a high reward, low-risk endeavor.

Stolen Merchandise is Easy to Sell to Larger Audiences. Many thieves have found that selling their stolen items through various on-line auction sites, or returning their stolen goods for a merchandise credit or gift card (which they sell to a second party) results in quicker sales and much higher prices than the traditional selling of items on the street or at a local flea market.

Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Continues to Increase. Losses from ORC are reported to be over $30 billion annually, with almost 100% of retailers acknowledging they have been a victim of ORC activity in the past 12 months. These thieves work diligently to commit their theft of popular items such as over-the-counter medicines; razors; batteries; tools; cell phones; and designer clothing. It is common for them to work in “teams”, employ distraction techniques, and use ‘booster-bags’ to circumvent anti-shoplifting systems.

Hayes International cites the following employee theft issues:

Less Effective or Reduced Pre-Employment Screening Requirements. More restrictions on various types of pre-employment screening has resulted in the hiring of less than desirable associates. In addition, some retailers have reduced their pre-screening requirements in an effort to save money and staff locations more quickly.

Less Supervision of Associates and Fewer Associates. Overall Opportunities for dishonest associates to commit acts of theft/abuse with less chance of detection has increased with reductions in staff and supervisors.

Stolen Merchandise is Easy to Sell to Larger Audiences. Dishonest employees have found that selling stolen items through various on-line auction sites, or having a friend or family member return the stolen goods for a merchandise credit or gift card (which they sell to a second party) results in quicker sales and much higher prices.

A General Decline in Honesty. On a regular basis we hear of business, government, law enforcement, celebrities, sports figures, and even church leaders being caught up in questionable activities. Such events make it easier for “borderline” employees to rationalize their theft acts.

View the Full 31st Annual Retail Theft Survey – Hayes International

 

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