Retailers Brace For Increased Shoplifting This Holiday Season

With the busiest retail shopping day of the year just less than a week away, retailers and shoppers are hoping for an enjoyable holiday season. But the nation’s weakened economy has many law enforcement officials forecasting increased shoplifting and theft -- crimes that could lead to lower profits for retailers and higher prices and limited selection for consumers.

Adding to the problem are fewer security and sales associates on the lookout for suspicious shoppers. Because of this, retailers are expected to rely heavily on sophisticated anti-theft technology, such as tags and smart cameras, to help catch and deter shoplifters.

According to a recent National Retail Security Survey conducted by the University of Florida, with a funding grant from ADT Security Services, retailers lost almost $12 billion to the 27 million shoplifters who stole merchandise from them in 2007. This loss was down from 2006 as retailers strengthened their use of anti-shoplifting technology and training, but the anticipated swell of shoplifting this holiday season will require an even greater use of electronic loss prevention tools.

“Many retailers are bracing for more shoplifting this season and will be counting on technology to help control theft, particularly as many stores have had to cut back on staff due to the slowing economy,” said Ed Wolfe, a veteran loss prevention executive formerly with Neiman Marcus and The Home Depot.

There will be a new and different type of shoplifter this holiday season, predicts Richard Mangan, a criminology professor at Florida Atlantic University and former DEA special agent.

“Clearly, shoplifting is going to be a bigger problem than in years past. Times of financial stress could drive individuals who normally would not consider shoplifting, to reconsider attempting this crime,” Mangan said.

Helping catch the crooks will be advances in anti-theft technology. Anti-theft solutions include tags which are placed inside clothing, makeup and even food packaging, along with intelligent cameras that can be programmed to recognize missing items, movement in a restricted area and other events. Digital recording is another effective tool giving retailers more flexibility in monitoring live and recorded video events from remote monitoring sites.

Lee Pernice, an ADT retail expert, said shoplifting affects every consumer.

“Shoplifting results in higher prices for everyone and can impact the amount and variety of goods retailers have available,” she said.

Shoplifting can also be a concern to parents. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) is a non-profit organization which specializes in working with parents to help discuss the impact of shoplifting with their children.

“Consumers play a major role in shoplifting awareness and prevention and this includes talking to their children about how shoplifting negatively affects not only stores, but family and friends as well,” said Caroline Kochman, NASP’s executive director.

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