Retail executives over the past year have talked a lot about “shrink” — or the losses they take due to theft, fraud or employee error — amid a flood of headlines about sometimes violent organized thefts at stores. But results from a retail-industry survey released Tuesday found the metric rose only modestly last year.
The report from the National Retail Federation, a retail industry group, found that the average shrink rate in 2022 crept higher to 1.6% from 1.4% in the prior year, when calculated as a share of sales. The figure from 2022 is in line with those seen in 2020 and 2019.
Still, the losses amounted to billions of dollars — $112.1 billion, up from $93.9 billion in 2021 — according to the report. And the report said that retailers were increasingly concerned about the violence of those crimes.
“Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category,” David Johnston, the NRF’s vice president for asset protection and retail operations, said in a statement.
The NRF, working with the Loss Prevention Research Council — a research group founded by some of the nation’s biggest retailers — surveyed people in the industry who work in loss-prevention and asset protection. The report contained responses or information from 177 retail brands. The survey was distributed in May, June and July.
“In this case, we cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” Target said in a statement.
The chain joins other retailers sounding the alarm about retail theft and closing stores, amid what executives have described as a spike in organized retail theft, or theft with the intent of reselling the goods. However, executives’ takes on earnings calls have differed slightly, and retailers are contending with other issues — like the fallout from inflation — that have hit financials.
The fight over theft has played out, perhaps predictably, on partisan lines, with some blaming what they say are lax crime policies in large cities. But other analysts point to changes in the flow of foot traffic through population centers since the pandemic, and say the data is often too squishy and subjective to make any hard calls about the state of crime — and whether it’s rising or falling, particularly at retailers — in a particular area.
More than two-thirds of the retailers surveyed by the NRF “said they were seeing even more violence and aggression” from organized retail theft compared with a year ago. Twenty-eight percent reported being “forced” to close a specific store location, the report said, while 45% said they cut operating hours, and 30% said they reduced or changed an in-store product selection as a result of retail crime.
“The types of products shoplifters are targeting may not be based solely on price point,” the National Retail Federation said.
“Products can range from high-price, high-fashion items to everyday products that have a fast resale capability,” the group said. “While ORC groups have traditionally targeted specific items or types of goods, that list has expanded to new categories like outerwear, batteries, energy drinks, designer footwear and kitchen accessories.”