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Surging Retail Crime Brings More Bad News for Consumers' Wallets

Matt Stamey

It's not just violent crime that's hitting communities across America in 2022, there's also less lethal — but still impactful — retail crime that's surging as prices remain elevated and punishments for criminals are rolled back. Walking through stores, Americans are now finding things such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream locked up in their freezer cases. Items like laundry detergent now have anti-theft devices normally reserved for big ticket purchases like iPads. Even buying deodorant now requires an employee to unlock a case like it's a diamond ring in a jewelry store.


If that reality seems bleak, it's because it is. Not only has surging retail crime forced drug stores, major retailers, and grocers to engage in dystopian looking security measures, it's hitting their bottom lines. Big time. 

While we won't know the full scope of the cost to retailers in 2022, we know that 2021 saw retailers' total losses from "shrink" — inventory loss from theft — surge to more than $94 billion. That amount is nearly 1.5 percent of retailers' revenue for the same year. 

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon explained that 2022 didn't bring any reduction in retail crimes such as shoplifting, organized or otherwise. "Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been," McMillon said on CNBC amid the recent spike in theft that's impacting Walmart's 4,720 stores in the United States. 

He added that, without action to address the shoplifting surge, "prices will be higher, and/or stores will close."

Target is also facing tough decisions as a result of thefts, reporting earlier in 2022 that they were seeing 50 percent more shoplifting incidents at a cost of some $400 million. 

The result of increased retail crime — whether the organized smash-and-grabs by groups of people or one-off thefts by individuals — means that, as Walmart's CEO noted, prices will increase to make up for losses and locations that continually get hit will likely close. Already, retailers around San Francisco, New York, and else where have shuttered locations where theft was frequent, and others changed their hours to avoid being open during prime crime time. 


Due to lax prosecutorial guidelines in those areas and other cities where Democrats have taken control of district attorney offices while continuing to wage their war on police officers, retail crime — like other offenses — will continue without apprehension or punishment. 

For criminals, the old saying "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime" has been turned on its head to be "do the crime because you won't do time." But for law abiding Americans already struggling to make ends meet due to inflation or having difficulty finding the items they need, this all means things won't get any better. Prices will increase to make up for losses, and store closures will mean more pressure to keep common goods in stock at fewer locations for more consumers.

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