Does a Good Economy Affect Shoplifting?

by Mike Miller June 23, 2011

As a counselor for both classroom and online theft classes I often discuss the notion that a good economy has a double-positive impact on stores. First, there is more money so more products are purchased. Second, more money means less shoplifting, with the net result again more money in the pocketbook of ownership and higher profits! What do you think? You may just be surprised.

Good Economy = More Theft!

I know what you’re thinking? “How can that be? I thought a good economy had a double-positive effect.” How can a population that is better off still be stealing?

The statistics, however, tell a different story. A recent study revealed that "shrinkage" - the industry term for inventory loss due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud - actually rose in 2010, to 1.58% of all retail sales, from 1.44% of all sales in 2009. In dollar terms, shrinkage cost U.S. retailers $37.1 billion in 2010, versus $33.5 billion in 2009, a 10.7% jump.

More Theft = More Taxes

Consumers bear the brunt of this cost. "We need to be concerned," says Richard Hollinger, a University of Florida criminologist who conducted the NRF-sponsored study. "We all pay for it. This theft amounts to an involuntary tax to compensate retailers for crimes that take place in their stores."

Jobs and Organized Crime

The primary cause for this increase has to be the job market. America still has a chronic unemployment problem, and as benefits run dry, people get more desperate.

Another factor in this worsening problem is more organized retail crime rings. Shoplifting used to be an individual thing. Now, groups are stealing in large quantities, and it's a global enterprise.

According to another survey, 94.5% of the 129 retail companies questioned say they have been victimized by organized retail crime over the past 12 months, the most in the survey's seven-year history. Technology makes the trade more lucrative: criminals can lift items and easily move them on auction sites like EBay.

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