LOPS ANGELES, California: To deter shoplifters and thieves during the post-COVID-19-pandemic rush of holiday shoppers this year, many U.S. retailers, including Walmart and Barnes and Noble, are installing cameras or locking away items for sale.
Walmart, J.C. Penney, Apple, Walgreens, and others have even installed new surveillance systems or hired more security guards, while Target and Barnes and Noble have sealed merchandise behind plexiglass or tethered it with steel cables to store shelves.
As it struggles to deal with excess inventories and lower consumer spending amidst high inflation, the retail industry has expressed concerns about theft this holiday season.
Burt Flickinger, managing director at retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said, "Sales are suppressed. Profits are being punished at the time of the highest inflation in 42 years. And now with the cost of preventing crime going up, that is going to be passed along in higher prices." as quoted by Reuters.
The effect on holiday sales and profits "will be horrific," he added.
After a series of bold and violent store thefts, including a "smash and grab" incident last year in a Nordstrom near San Francisco that involved 80 thieves, crime has been in the spotlight around the country. A survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) showed a 26.5 percent rise in "organized retail crime" carried out by groups of people last year.
But with little data available, it is unclear whether overall U.S. retail crime is actually rising. In 2021, total losses from shoplifting, theft, fraud, and errors for U.S. retailers remained steady at an average rate of 1.4 percent of total sales, the same figure over the past five years.