Down to Business: Retailers continue efforts to avoid inventory loss


As a shopper, it’s hard sometimes not to get annoyed at a business, even when you understand the root of your irritation.

Take for instance the printer ink under lock and key at the big-box store, or the face cream or cold medicine at the drugstore, or the (fill in the blank with your own experience).

To purchase these items, you have to push a call button or find a worker to open the case housing the product — and often follow them to a register to cash out immediately.

But here’s the back story, as reported last week by the National Retail Federation’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey.

“Shrink,” or loss of inventory through internal or external theft, missing paperwork or other snafus, accounted for $94.5 billion in lost sales last year, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. For the average retailer, the shrink rate was 1.44%, according to the survey, on par with the 1.5% five-year rate.

External theft, which includes shoplifting by individuals and organized groups, represented the largest chunk of shrink at 37% according to the survey.

Employee/internal theft was second at 28.5%.

The survey, done annually, was conducted this year in partnership with the Loss Prevention Research Council, according to the National Retail Federation, which resulted in a closer look at the impact of what is called “organized retail crime.”

That often means groups rapidly hitting a store or stores, as chillingly seen last fall in smash-and-grab incidents by masked marauders at high-end retailers Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton. It can also involve less flashy thefts executed by local fencing operations that send out the homeless, drug addicts or individuals with mental health problems to do the stealing, loss-prevention experts say.

Retailers in the 2022 survey reported an average 26.5% increase in organized retail crime incidents last year, with many expressing alarm at the accompanying violence and aggression.

Items targeted have come to be known as CRAVED: concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable and disposable. That includes health and beauty products, accessories, food and beverages, apparel, footwear, home furnishings, housewares, office supplies, infant care and toys.

The survey also noted an unexpected impact from COVID-19, as labor shortages and turnover leave retailers with insufficient staff “to provide informal guardianship, that is, to simply deter retail crimes with their presence.”

Where does that leave us as shoppers? Pushing call buttons or flagging down a store associate.

In the spring, Forbes, under the headline “You’re Not Imagining It: Stores Are Locking Everything Up,” quoted the CEO of a security-device maker as saying that putting merchandise in locked displays can depress sales as shoppers forgo the hassle.

On the bright side, though, the article mentioned new technology that could soon allow us to unlock the cases ourselves — if we’re willing to hand over personal information or have our faces scanned to gain access, that is.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at  [email protected]

Categories: Business, News, News

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