Retail Theft Cost Stores $6 Billion in 2008

Retailers might consider investing in a few extra security cameras this year. Stolen money and merchandise from shoplifters, as well as dishonest employees, cost retailers $6 billion last year, according to the 21st Annual Retail Theft Survey.

The survey, conducted by consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International, found that apprehensions of thieves rose 7.26 percent, while the amount of money recovered was up 21.64 percent vs. last year. This is the third consecutive year to see a rise in both these factors.

The data for the survey is gathered from 22 major department stores, mass merchants and big-box retailers, representing 19,151 store locations and nearly $572 billion in annual retail sales for 2008. While the $6 billion figure represents only slightly more than 1 percent of the retailers’ total sales, this is up from 2007, when $6.7 of the retailers $689 billion in retail sales was stolen.

“The numbers didn’t surprise us that much, considering the downturn in the economy,” said Mark Doyle, president of Wesley Chapel, Fla.-based Jack L. Hayes International. “There are people who are out of work and there are people trying to make ends meet, plus you’ve got less salespeople on the sale floor. It’s a double whammy.”

In 2008, $113 million in goods and money was recovered from shoplifters vs. $69.8 million from employees. This was more than a 30 percent increase in the value apprehended from shoplifters in 2007. Doyle emphasized that shoplifting can be prevented through more attentive customer service and refusing to give consumers too much privacy when they’re inside the store.

But dishonest employees did their share of stealing, too. According to Jack L. Hayes International, one in every 30 employees was apprehended for theft in 2008. Doyle sees the point of hire as the time to cull bad apples.

“For employee theft, it starts at the point of hire. Employers need to do a due diligence, give them an honesty test, a background check, a drug check,” said Doyle. “Training and awareness is a big thing. You have got to get the employees involved and let them know this is a team effort. If another employee is stealing from the company, they are also stealing from them.”
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