Another Factor Drags Down the Corner Store

Prices go up for a reason besides supply-chain woes. Federal help needed?
By Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger
Freelance Reporter
Gregory Bresiger writes about business and personal finance. He is a former New York Post business reporter.
January 6, 2022Updated: January 10, 2022

Grab-and-go thievery has come to Main Street.

Small businesses, struggling to survive over the two years of the pandemic, are facing a shoplifting epidemic, business groups representing owners say in recent studies.

“Fifty-four percent of small businesses experienced an increase in shoplifting in 2021,” according to a poll by, a small-business advisory group in Salt Lake City.

The poll, which questioned some 700 small-store owners, found that most have been affected by the crime wave.

“Up to 89 percent of small business owners experienced shoplifting in 2021, a 1 percent increase from our 2020 report,” reported. In addition, some 15 percent of small businesses had a shoplifting incident turn violent, the survey found.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) in its latest report found “organized retail crime (ORC)” is becoming an increasing problem for its members.

“About 69 percent of retailers said they had seen an increase in ORC activity over the past year,” the NRF’s Retail Security Survey 2021 found.

Retailers, according to the survey, cited reasons such as COVID-19, policing, changes to sentencing guidelines and the growth of online marketplaces for the increase in ORC activity. Retailers report these gangs are becoming a bigger problem.

The NRF also reported that 65 percent reported an increase in violence, while 37 percent said ORC gangs “were much more aggressive than in the past.”

The report indicates that thievery is crossing state lines. The “aggressive tactics” of thieves require federal action, NRF members said.

“One area of strong agreement, buoyed no doubt by the increase in aggressive tactics, is the need for a federal ORC law. Some 78 percent of respondents felt it would effectively combat these issues in part because ORC is a multi-jurisdictional issue that crosses state lines,” the report states. also said federal action is needed in “an era where it is easy to evade prosecution,” with the NRF noting that prosecutions for retail theft have been declining.

“The number of apprehensions, prosecutions and civil demands all fell to new lows in 2020,” the report states. “Apprehensions were down to 507.8 on average in 2020 from 688.8 in 2019.”

These numbers, NRF says, are “a sizeable decrease” over the previous five years.”

Shop owners, according to the survey, are finding some thieves are doing more than stealing and running. Crooks are using numerous ways to hurt small businesses.

“Thieves don’t always look for a quick grab-n-go robbery,” said, noting that “21 percent of small businesses have had customers steal something at the same time they are making a purchase. And 25 percent of small businesses have had to deal with customers using stolen credit cards.”

What are people most commonly stealing?

The survey found the pilfered items are usually lower-priced merchandise. The top five categories are food and drinks, clothing, money, cosmetics, and electronics.

What cities are most affected?

The NRF listed Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Miami.

Part of the problem of the epidemic of shoplifting, according to, is that some businesses have little defense against the latest crime wave.

“Only 28 percent of businesses have a shoplifting policy in place to prevent theft. And 67 percent of small-business owners report using inventory management software, while only 29 percent of those use inventory management software solely to track theft,” wrote.

While the shoplifting epidemic may seem a problem only for retailers, the report found that the cost of the thefts are being passed on to consumers, with 25 percent of small businesses having increased their product prices because of shoplifting.

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