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Retail Theft and Other ‘Shrink’ Rises to Nearly $49B

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Theft amounts to 1.44% of sales.

It’s probably cold comfort, but if your retail business has been the victim of theft, you’re certainly not alone.

Thefts and other inventory “shrink” from retailers grew to $48.9 billion in 2016 from $45.2 billion the year before, according to a new survey released by the National Retail Federation and the University of Florida.

The thefts amounted to 1.44 percent of sales, up from 1.38 percent.

According to the report, nearly 49 percent of retailers surveyed reported increases in inventory shrink, while just under 17 percent said it remained flat. Shrink was divided into shoplifting and organized retail crime (36.5 percent), employee theft/internal (30 percent), administrative paperwork error (21.3 percent) and vendor fraud or error (5.4 percent).

“The seriousness of retail theft is much greater than most customers realize,” said Richard Hollinger, a veteran University of Florida criminology professor and the lead author of the report. “When criminals steal from retailers, consumers pay higher prices, the safety of innocent employees can be compromised and shoppers looking for popular merchandise often cannot find it. Retailers need to continue to invest in new technologies to prevent and prosecute these crimes.”

The survey of 83 loss prevention executives from a variety of retail sectors was conducted March 29 to May 1. The study is a partnership between Hollinger of the University of Florida and NRF and is sponsored by The Retail Equation.

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