US merchants express concern over an increase in theft and ‘flash rob’ attempts.

Everyday items like toothpaste, chocolate, washing powder, and deodorant are more frequently kept behind locked doors at US businesses as petty theft and organized theft rise and consumers struggle to keep up with rising living expenses.

In their most recent earnings reports, major retailers Walmart and Target, drugstore networks CVS and Walgreens, home improvement company Home Depot, and shoe retailer Foot Locker are among those who have expressed alarm over an increase in thefts, including violent ones.

In a conference call, Lauren Hobart, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, stated that organized retail crime and theft in general are becoming more of a severe problem for many shops.

The effects of theft on the company’s inventory were “meaningful” for both the results of the second quarter and the forecast for the rest of the year, she noted.

Dick’s had provided guidance of US$12.90 to US$13.80, but now anticipates earnings per share for the year to be between US$11.33 and US$12.13.

According to Target CEO Brian Cornell, throughout the first five months of this year, there was a 120 percent spike in theft occurrences involving violence or threats of violence in his shops.

Our crew is still having to deal with an intolerable quantity of organized retail crime and retail theft, he said.

He observed an inventory loss well in excess of what is sustainable long-term.

In an effort to control inflation, interest rates have increased over the past 18 months from nearly zero to about 5.5 percent, which is the highest level in 22 years.

Consumers have been feeling the pinch as borrowing money for major expenditures or for business expansion becomes more expensive due to higher lending fees.

The National Retail Federation’s 2022 retail security report estimates that shops nationwide lost $94.5 billion to “shrink” in 2021.

The term “retail shrink” refers to the loss of merchandise due to things like employee theft, shoplifting, or administrative mistakes.

According to the poll, organized retail crime increased by 26.5% overall for merchants in 2021, with the majority of participants indicating that the pandemic has increased the risks.

Stores have responded by adding transparent walls with locks on the shelves, occasionally padlocked chains on the refrigerators, and scattered call buttons for personnel in the aisles.

In order to discourage stealing, unprotected shelves are frequently only partially filled.

However, these security measures don’t always work as deterrents.

In full view of customers and personnel, a man in a hooded jacket and face mask used a blowtorch to melt locked cases in June at a Walgreens location in Queens, New York.

After that, according to media sources, he packed a bag with merchandise and walked away without paying.

Queens residents have also started a petition about dangerous conditions in multiple CVS locations.

For their own safety, some stores are reportedly encouraging their personnel not to intervene during thefts and not to call the police.

Some are thinking about closing locations, with Giant considering closing a store in Washington where theft and violence are prevalent and increasing worse.

A spokesman told AFP that the situation was getting more and more challenging, adding that other places were also affected.

Walgreens closed five locations in San Francisco in 2021 owing to theft, whereas Walmart closed four locations in Chicago this year ostensibly because to poor profitability.

This year, shrinkage has risen a little. It went up last year. It’s unequal nationwide, said John Rainey, chief financial officer of Walmart, in mid-August.

We clearly don’t want it to increase since it can result in an increase in pricing, he continued.

However, online users are claiming an increase in “flash robbery” occurrences, in which a group rushes into a store, takes anything they can reach, and then flees.

According to the authorities, some 30 masked individuals broke into a Nordstrom shop in Los Angeles on August 12 and took more than $300,000 worth of designer goods while assaulting a security guard with bear spray.

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