US retailers raise alarms over surge in thefts amid ongoing inflation
US retailers, including Walmart, Target, CVS, and more, are grappling with rising thefts and "flash rob" attacks as a cost-of-living crisis intensifies.Un
In the mid of an escalating cost-of-living crisis sweeping the United States, major retailers such as Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Home Depot, and Foot Locker have sounded the alarm over a surge in thefts and violent incidents plaguing their stores.
Reports emerging on Sunday highlighted the growing concern among retailers, who not only complain of a rise in petty theft but also confront organized mass theft incidents referred to as "flash rob" attacks.
"Organized retail crime, and theft in general, is an increasingly serious issue impacting many retailers," remarked Lauren Hobart, Chief Executive at Dick’s Sporting Goods during a conference call.
The National Retail Federation’s 2022 retail security survey disclosed that US retailers suffered estimated losses of a staggering $94.5 billion due to "shrink" in 2021 alone. Shrink refers to inventory loss resulting from staff theft, shoplifting, or administrative errors.
The survey also uncovered a significant increase in organized retail crime across the country in 2021.
In response to the mounting organized retail crime, stores have taken measures like installing transparent walls with locks on shelves, padlocking refrigerators, and placing call buttons in aisles to promptly summon staff for customer assistance. To deter theft, many have also opted for sparsely stocked, unprotected shelves.
However, retailers say that these security measures are not always effective, prompting some to consider the drastic measure of closing shop.
A spokesperson for Giant, a US regional supermarket chain operating in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and offering online shopping and delivery to New Jersey, revealed that the company is contemplating the closure of a Washington supermarket due to escalating theft and violence.
Walgreens, affected by losses, closed five San Francisco stores in 2021, and Walmart shuttered four outlets in Chicago this year. "Shrink has increased a bit this year. It increased last year. It’s uneven across the country," commented Walmart's Chief Financial Officer, John Rainey, in mid-August.
Simultaneously, online users are reporting a surge in "flash rob" incidents, where groups rush into stores, commit rapid robberies by seizing readily available items, and make a quick getaway.
In a high-profile "flash rob" attack, approximately 30 masked individuals targeted the US luxury department store Nordstrom in Los Angeles on August 12, making off with more than $300,000 worth of luxury goods, according to police reports.
Amid this ongoing turmoil, the enduring inflation crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to tighten its grip on American youth and other lower-income segments of society. These individuals find themselves constantly struggling to meet basic needs, trapped in a dire economic quagmire.
Tough working conditions with low wages, set against the backdrop of rising unemployment and a widening wealth gap, have become focal points of discontent and frustration in the United States.