No hold-up in retail crime growth

November 02, 2011

Cheese and meats are the most-stolen foods, and shaving items are the most-stolen HBC, as theft rates jump in stagnant economy.

Retail crime is scaling fast, cautions the 2011 Global Retail Theft Barometer issued by Checkpoint, which cites a 6.6% jump this past year to an overall rate of 1.45% of total retail sales. In the United States alone, the shrink rate is up to 1.58% or $45.3 billion.

The study urges store operators “to step up their vigilance” because organized crime poses a serious threat and “theft-related factors make up nearly 80% of shrink.” Checkpoint notes best-practice leaders that say “they are protecting an average of 76% of their 50 most-stolen product lines….[this] represents a 20% improvement in coverage in just the past three years.”

Still, within the global food channel, staples such as cheese and meat were stolen or lost at rates that far exceed the industry average. In health and beauty care (HBC), data showed shaving goods suffered shrink at more than twice the category average. More specific figures show high-risk items as: shaving products (3.7% global shrink rate), clothing accessories (3.6%), cheese (3.1%), outerwear (2.9%), meat (2.8%) and perfume/fragrances (2.8%).

By trade class, the natural and specialty foods, and health and beauty care sectors (including cosmetics and pharmacy) were among the most vulnerable. By contrast, grocery, discount and warehouse club channels were among the least vulnerable markets measured.

Retailers use electronic article surveillance (EAS) in some form to protect nearly 40% of the most-stolen product lines, according to the survey. Yet spending on loss-prevention equipment (as a percentage of retail sales) actually declined this year in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific – because they’re spending more on in-store and contract security personnel.

If this is part of a bigger picture that includes at least three store audits per year, more RFID enablement, and better training, intelligence gathering and technology, stores will be on the right track to controlling shrink, suggests Checkpoint. The Lempert Report concurs, yet also believes retailers that monitor crime patterns in their areas and elsewhere, work closely with police and other merchants to identify ring members, and have strategies to thwart shelf-emptying sweeps can better protect their assets.