An annual survey compiled by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that so-called “organized retail crime” continues to be a growing problem, with 67% of retailers surveyed reporting an increase in the past year, with losses averaging $726,351 per $1 billion in sales, which is an increase from $700,259 in 2016.
The 13th annual ORC study also found that 40% of retailers it polled were the victims of cargo theft, with merchandise being stolen on its way from distribution centers to stores or elsewhere along the supply chain, though that is down from 44% last year.
Los Angeles continued to be the hardest-hit area for ORC in the nation, the survey found – a position that city has held since 2012 – followed by New York City, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco/Oakland, Orange County, Calif., and Northern New Jersey.
“Organized retail crime continues to be one of the biggest challenges to retailers of all sizes,” noted Bob Moraca, NRF’s vice president for loss prevention, in a statement. “These crimes happen across the country every day, with criminals getting smarter, more brazen, more aggressive, and sometimes even attacking store employees and shoppers. Fighting ORC is a full-time job, and retailers must learn how to stay a step ahead of these thieves.”
NRF’s annual poll also found that six in 10 retailers had recovered merchandise from physical fencing locations including pawn shops, flea markets kiosks and temporary “pop-up” stores, about the same as last year. Criminals often turn to the internet for the anonymity it offers in fencing, NRF reported, but only 56% of retailers had found stolen goods online, down from 75% last year. And 28% had found their stolen merchandise exported illegally outside the U.S., the group’s poll noted.
ORC criminals also look for items that can be stolen and quickly resold, NRF pointed out, noting that some of the “top items” in that regard this year include designer clothes, denim pants, razors and designer handbags.