Thwarting Theft

The cost of retail theft is huge. The total annual cost to taxpayers is $33.1 billion a year. That comes out to $75,000 a minute in lost revenue to retailers nationwide. Those numbers increased in 2021 as shoplifting incidents rose throughout the year.

Tip: “Share common shoplifting tactics with staff and use hands-on customer service as a deterrent.”

$599The average per-incident loss to a retailer in the U.S.


The biggest and fastest growing bites comes from organized retail crime and shoplifting. Nearly 40% of incidents can be tracked to them. The average per-incident loss to a retailer of $599.

Shoplifting is a huge problem for smaller business as well as chains. The cities hardest hit in the U.S. are Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Chicago, and Dallas. In New York City alone, retail theft rose a whopping 16% between 2019 and 2021.

The vast majority of shoplifting (75%) is done by individuals over age 18, and most visit the location at least twice. The most likely days for the actual theft to occur are Wednesday through Saturday. The biggest season for shoplifting is winter.


What about recovery? According to Jack L. Hayes International, only 2.9% of losses are ever recovered.  Despite increasing violence associated with theft, only one out of 100 shoplifters are ever arrested.  That number is likely to continue to decrease as shoplifting is now often considered a misdemeanor, a crime for which there is less and less punishment in most states. The result? Fewer than one out of 100 retail thieves are arrested.


What can you do to thwart theft, especially shoplifting? Here are 10 tips offered by the ascent, a service of Motely Fool:

  • Keep your store organized.
  • Share common shoplifting tactics with staff.
  • Optimize your store’s layout.
  • Install security cameras.
  • Add mirrors so you can see every area.
  • Use hands-on customer service as a deterrent.
  • Use multiple highly visible signs to deter thieves.
  • Train employees.
  • Use retail inventory management tools.
  • Identify your most at-risk items.


“The retail industry…is now faced with large-scale theft and looting, much of it stemming from organized crime,” concludes Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Retail theft is becoming a national crisis, hurting businesses in every state and the communities they serve.”

What are the next steps? “We call on policymakers to tackle this problem head-on,” says Bradley, “before it gets further out of control. No store should have to close because of theft.”

How has retail theft impacted your business, and what have you done to curtail it? Tell us about it and share in the conversation on Facebook here.

Erinn Morgan

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