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Retail theft in US costs $100b a year

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-04 09:24

Customers walk through an empty section of Nordstrom's flagship store at the San Francisco Centre on Aug 26. JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

When a group of 30 thieves entered a Nordstrom store inside a mall in Los Angeles last month, a video showed worried shoppers staring in disbelief as the gang brazenly did a midday smash-and-grab, stealing between $60,000 and $100,000 worth of merchandise, police said.

Also last month, a gang of 30 masked thieves was caught on camera robbing an Yves Saint Laurent store in Glendale, California, taking $300,000 in goods.

Such large, planned retail theft is especially bad in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, police said. San Francisco police said retail robbery has risen by 12 percent this year compared with last year.

"There is (definitely) a problem with gangs in San Francisco," Paula Rosenblum, co-founder of the US retail advisory company Retail Systems Research, told China Daily.

A Democratic supervisor in San Mateo County in California said state laws have proved ineffective in stopping retail theft.

"Enough is enough," San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa told NBC Bay Area on Aug 29. "We really need to look at state laws. What we have in place right now is not working. We can't go on like this."

Beyond large-scale robberies in front of customers in big cities, authorities say the theft of goods is also occurring in retail stores in small cities across the United States, causing losses of nearly $100 billion a year to the industry.

Dubbed inventory "shrink" by retailers, the cost was $94.5 billion in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.

In San Francisco, a Walgreens store was temporarily forced to padlock its freezers full of ice cream to deter thieves, online videos showed. Staff members said shoplifters go in about 20 times a day and steal goods.

Walgreens closed five stores in San Francisco in 2021. This year the retail giant will shut 150 stores in the US and 300 in the United Kingdom.

Carol Spieckerman, president of the consultancy company Spieckerman Retail in Arkansas, told China Daily that retailers are facing a tough climate because of several issues since the pandemic.

"Inflation, ongoing labor shortages, retail theft and other challenges haven't loosened their grip," she said.

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