shoplifting rise

Retailers report shoplifting rise

US retailers experienced a rise in shoplifting in 2019, with the crime continuing to rank as the number one contributor to retail shrink.

According to the latest Annual Retail Theft Survey by Jack L Hayes International, 66.7 per cent of retailers indicated shrink increased last year with shoplifting the primary contributor, while employee theft experienced a decline.

Here’s an insight into what the survey found…

The Annual Retail Theft Survey

Now in its 32nd year, the Annual Retail Theft Survey takes a deep-dive into what retail players are experiencing on the frontline of retail shrink.

This year’s survey involved 21 major retailers spanning 18,994 stores who collectively reported over $510 billion in retail sales in 2019.

Shoplifting on the rise

shoplifting rise

The 2019 survey found shoplifting continues to increase across the US retail sector, with 66.7 per cent of retailers indicating an increase in shrink last year, while 23.8 per cent reported a decrease, and another 9.5 per cent said shrink stayed about the same.

The predominant cause of that shrink remains shoplifting, which was conservatively estimated to account for between 30 and 40 per cent of all retail loss.

“For the past several years loss prevention professionals have rated shoplifting as their #1 shrink issue,” the survey explained.

Reasons cited for the increase in shoplifting include:

  • Increased Organized Retail Crime (ORC) activity
  • Legislation raising Felony Threshold Levels
  • More “hit n run”/fleeing shoplifters
  • Less staff on salesfloor creating more opportunities for shoplifters
  • Thieves view shoplifting as a high reward, low-risk endeavor

“Over the years, Hayes International has witnessed a steady and significant rise in shoplifting. Billions of dollars are stolen every year by shoplifters, negatively impacting retailers’ bottom-line profits, which results in higher prices to the consumer,” the survey noted.

Meanwhile, they noted the average shoplifting incident equated to around $50 in loss.

Employee theft

While this year’s survey indicated a decline in employee theft, the reality is each incident comes at a far greater cost to the retailer than shoplifting.

Retailers indicated in 2019 employee theft appeared to be down 2.9 per cent in 2018, but the cost of each case had risen 11 per cent to an average of $1,380.62.

Meanwhile, the survey further reported an astounding one out of every 50 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2019.

“Many people often think of theft and abuse in companies as being isolated acts, which in themselves cost an organization little,” the survey stated.

“Unfortunately, this is untrue! Each year thousands of employees are caught stealing from their employers and co-workers. Furthermore, our studies reflect that this group of thieves are being caught stealing far more than a few insignificant supplies.”


shoplifting rise

The Annual Retail Theft Survey has a major focus on apprehensions, with the 21 retailers involved noting they had apprehended a total of 48,036 shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2019, up 2.4 per cent from 2018.

Of those, 315,095 were shoplifters, up 3.0 per cent from 2018 and a further 32,941 were dishonest employees, down 2.9 per cent in 2018.

Funds recovered

Meanwhile, apprehensions often lead to items or funds being recovered.

In 2019, over $90 million was recovered from apprehended shoplifters, an increase of 3.5 per cent from 2018. The survey also found an additional $176 million was recovered from shoplifters where no apprehension was made, up 11.0 per cent from 2018.

In terms of dishonest employees, over $45 million was recovered from employee apprehensions in 2019, up 7.8 per cent from 2018.

“Dollar recoveries have increased in 21 of the past 22 years,” the survey indicated.

The final word

The Hayes International Annual Retail Theft Survey offers a fascinating insight into just some of the factors that currently contribute to over $50.6 billion worth of retail loss each year in the US.

As America readies to reopen its doors in the wake of Covid-19, there has never been a more critical time to curb the threat of both shoplifting and employee theft.

You can learn more about strategies to mitigate shoplifting here, and decreasing employee theft here. Meanwhile, you can find our range of security tags and labels to combat shoplifting here.