Viral retail theft videos add to perception crime is up, but statistics show a different picture
With deals to be had, Black Friday shoppers were out this weekend snatching up savings, leading to a record $9.8 billion in sales, according to Adobe Analytics.
MasterCard SpendingPulse data shows consumer spending was up 2.5% over last year.
However, a reported rise in retail theft is causing some concerns. The National Retail Federation (NRF) said retail theft cost the industry $112.1 billion last year.
NRF Vice President of Asset Protection and Retail Operations David Johnston said the level of theft is unprecedented.
“Criminal groups have become more brazen and open and violent in their tactics over time," he said. "Eighty-eight percent of our retailers reported that shoplifters overall are somewhat more or much more aggressive and violent compared to one year ago.”
Certainly, viral videos of thieves grabbing things off shelves with impunity added to the perception that retail theft was on the rise, but according to the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), theft in the city was down 14.9% last year.
Despite this decline, SDPD announced it would increase patrol at shopping centers. University of San Diego economics professor Alan Gin said that’s a bit of a security theater.
"It is to make people feel safer when they go out shopping," he said. "Also ... to demonstrate, to maybe try to preemptively, with a show of force, (prevent theft)."
Gin said compared to the first six months of 2019 — a year before the pandemic — and the first six months of 2023, retail theft is actually down.
"So I think what the numbers show is that possibly inventory loss is up compared to 2021," he said. "But those are the pandemic years, so they were down considerably.”
He said what the retail industry is seeing could be attributed to a lack of security staffing at stores and the use of self-checkout counters rather than a rise in shoplifting.