'Unprecedented' theft contributed to $112 billion in retail losses last year

Carly Olson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Losses from retail crime ticked up in 2022, causing many retailers across the country to change the way they do business, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the National Retail Federation.

"Retailers are seeing unprecedented levels of theft coupled with rampant crime in their stores, and the situation is only becoming more dire," David Johnston, NRF's vice president for asset protection and retail operations, said in a statement.

The annual survey by the trade group collected insights from 177 retail brands across 28 different retail sectors — including apparel, jewelry, grocery, and department stores — and accounted for more than 97,000 retail locations and $1.6 trillion in annual retail sales.

Shrink — a measurement of lost inventory — for total retail sales in 2022 reached $112.1 billion, up from $93.9 billion in losses in 2021, according to the survey.

It's worth noting that when retail sales go up, as they did in 2022, shrink also tends to rise. The average shrink rate in the 2022 fiscal year was 1.6%, up from 1.4% the year before. The latest figure is in line with shrink rates from 2019 and 2020.

Theft of all kinds accounted for 65% of retail shrink in 2022, similar to previous years.


External theft — including organized retail crime — caused 36% of losses, while employee theft caused 29%, the survey said. "Process, control failures and errors" caused 27%, while the final 7% was "other" or "unknown."

Many retailers who participated in the survey said they had increased spending on loss prevention in 2022. Forty-six percent said they increased the use of third-party security personnel in their stores, and 34% said they "increased payroll to support their risk efforts."

Fifty-three percent said they have increased, or are increasing, employee workplace violence training to mitigate the risk of violent encounters associated with theft or crime.

In-store violence is a top concern. Eighty-eight percent of retailers surveyed said that shoplifters were "somewhat more or much more aggressive and violent compared with one year ago," according to the survey.


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