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Giant Food Takes Steps to Stop Theft, Avoid Closing Stores

Food retailers across the nation are faced with an increase in organized retail crime
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Giant Food Theft
Giant Food President Ira Kress demonstrates how spiraled knobs help prevent or curb theft of shaving razors.

Giant Food is reportedly taking steps to keep its stores open despite a wave of theft and violence plaguing not only the Maryland-based grocer, but also other retailers across the country.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Giant Food plans to limit the number of entrances to stores to create more obstacles for shoplifters and also hire security guards — some of them armed, depending on the history of violence in a given store. The regional grocer also plans to keep fewer high-cost items on shelves, limit the number of items allowed to be taken to self-checkout stands and put secured items such as razor blades in wall dispensers that make noise when items are removed.

A recent survey of 1,000 retail and grocery associates by Axonify found half of retail/grocery front-line workers surveyed witnessed a customer stealing or attempting to steal from their store in the last six months.

“To say [theft has] risen tenfold in the last five years would not be an understatement,” said Giant Food President Ira Kress, noting that violence has also “increased exponentially.”

The increased theft and crime experienced throughout the country has even forced some grocers to close stores. A year after it opened as a flagship store, the Whole Foods Market at Trinity Place in downtown San Francisco closed its doors following incidents of theft and crime in the area.

Giant Food Theft
Giant Food is closing secondary entrances at some supermarkets to create more obstacles for shoplifters.

Giant Food — which has 165 supermarkets across the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — hasn’t closed any stores yet, and Kress said he’s taking certain actions to avoid this scenario.

“The last thing I want to do is close stores,” Kress added. “But I’ve got to be able to run them safely and profitably.”

Giant Food isn't alone. Late last year, Target Corp. reported that organized retail crime accounted for more than $400 million in profit losses for the company. And the company is expecting that number to rise this year.

“As we look ahead, we now expect shrink will reduce this year's profitability by more than $500 million compared with last year. While there are many potential sources of inventory shrink, theft and organized retail crime are increasingly important drivers of the issue,” said Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell when reporting the company’s first quarter earnings. “We are making significant investments in strategies to prevent this from happening in our stores and protect our guests and our team. We're also focused on managing the financial impact on our business so we can continue to keep our stores open, knowing they create local jobs and offer convenient access to essentials.”

Trade association National Retail Federation is pushing for federal legislation to help retailers combat the rise in crime.

“Organized retail crime has been a major concern for the retail industry for decades, endangering store employees and customers, disrupting store operations, and inflicting billions in financial loss for retailers and the communities they serve,” noted Matthew Shay, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NRF. “These concerns have grown in recent years as criminal groups have become more brazen and violent in their tactics and are using new channels to resell stolen goods. NRF and its members have been forcefully advocating for the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act in Congress because it’s time for decisive action, not just platitudes and endless debate. 

Introduced earlier this year by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nevada, the bipartisan legislation would establish a coordinated multi-agency response and create new tools to address evolving trends in organized retail crime. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Based in Landover, Md., Giant Food has approximately 20,000 associates. Included within its165 stores are 153 full-service pharmacies, more than 80 full-service PNC Banks and 29 Starbucks locations. Parent company Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Whole Foods is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seattle-based Amazon, which is No. 2 on The PG 100, while Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is No. 6.

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