Retailers and Shoppers on High Holiday Alert

It’s the holiday season and, while you’re shopping, you better watch out (but not for the big guy).

As we’ve mentioned recently, an uptick in retail theft and shoplifting is causing a ripple effect throughout the industry, leading to the closure of numerous stores, and raising concerns about staff and shopper safety. Retail giants like Target have shuttered locations in major cities due to increased incidents of theft, many of them organized in nature. Walgreens, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, and other retailers are also feeling the impact and have made the choice to close their doors in some areas.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average shrink rate, which includes merchandise losses due to theft (both external and internal), fraud, damage, and related reasons, cost retailers more than $112 billion in 2022, up from nearly $94 billion the previous year. Pundits have cited a variety of influences to explain the increase in theft, economic hardship and social media trends among them. But law enforcement officials are also pointing to criminal justice laws and policies to account for the surge. Under these reforms, individuals caught shoplifting, even repeatedly, may no longer be jailed or required to post bail, leading to a sense of impunity among some perpetrators.

As retailers continue to grapple with these issues, the upcoming holiday shopping season is likely to be affected. Store closures, often in vulnerable locations, will not only limit shopping options but also increase the burden on the remaining stores to meet demand.

Moreover, retail theft has become more widespread and at times dangerous, making it an important safety issue. Shoppers must remain vigilant, exercise caution, and be prepared for any potential incidents. Having an exit plan and reporting suspicious activities to store staff or authorities is crucial in ensuring a safe shopping experience.

As retail locations close, both the availability of goods, our collective safety, and the enjoyment of the shopping experience are all likely to be affected. To grapple with this issue, the NRF is hosting Fight Retail Crime Day on Thursday, October 26 where retail leaders will meet with Congress in an attempt to find solutions. But until changes are made, it’s up to every one of us to be better prepared as we celebrate the holidays.

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