Target, Walmart, Foot Locker Say Brazen Retail Theft Getting Worse

Target, Walmart, Foot Locker Say Brazen Retail Theft Getting Worse
A Target store in Somersworth, N.H. (Alice Giordano/The Epoch Times)
Jack Phillips

Several industry groups in the United States warned that brazen retail theft has increased despite their efforts to bolster loss prevention and increase security for employees.

According to an executive with the National Retail Federation, described as the world’s largest trade organization, the loss of inventory due to retail theft reached $100 billion last year. That figure is likely to get worse, said the executive, David Johnston, in a Fox Business interview on Thursday.

“There have been employees and customers injured,” he told the outlet. “There have been employees killed while these shoplifting events are taking place,” he added.

In one instance last month, an employee at Home Depot in California was shot and killed while trying to stop a shoplifter from leaving, it was reported. Officials said the employee, identified as Blake Mohs, tried to stop a female shoplifter, identified as 32-year-old Benicia Knapps, who shot and killed him. She was later arrested, police said.

Jan Kniffen, CEO of retail research firm J Rogers Kniffen, told Seeking Alpha that there appears to be a society-wide breakdown that’s causing the rise in retail theft.

“I would contend that social pressure has fallen to modern day lows. There is no embarrassment when people around you find out you aren’t paying your bills or that you are stealing goods from a store. So, the bad news is that shrink is now normalizing across the country, especially in cities,” Kniffen commented. “The legal penalties for theft have the likelihood of apprehension have fallen dramatically. This is a societal problem that really accelerated during the pandemic. But, it isn’t going away.”

Executives with Foot Locker, Kohl’s, Walmart, and Target—a company that’s also been targeted with a boycott after it rolled out a pro-LGBT line of clothing, including for children—recently sounded the alarm on losses they’ve suffered due to theft.

“I would just say that again [theft] has been a multi-year dynamic industry, we are not immune to it, it’s increasing. You’ve heard Target talk about it and others, and so it’s having an increased impact on Foot Locker,” Foot Locker CEO Mary Dillon said last week. “We’ve seen a significant increase in theft from stores and usually through this lens of an organized retail crime type of action, affecting more apparel certainly than footwear, where we only have one item out, but apparel is affected.”

Foot Locker at Dadeland Mall in Miami, Florida, on Aug. 28, 2009. (Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)
Foot Locker at Dadeland Mall in Miami, Florida, on Aug. 28, 2009. (Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

Days before that, Target CEO Brian Cornell also alluded to the widespread problem.

“Beyond macroeconomic challenges, we continue to contend with significant headwinds caused by inventory shrink, building on a worsening trend that emerged last year. While shrink can be driven by multiple factors, theft and organized retail crime are increasingly urgent issues, impacting the team, and our guests and other retailers,” he told investors and analysts last week, according to multiple reports.

He added: “The problem affects all of us, limiting product availability, creating a less convenient shopping experience, and putting our team and guests in harm’s way. The unfortunate fact is, violent incidents are increasing at our stores and across the entire retail industry. And when products are stolen, simply put, they’re no longer available for guests who depend on them. And left unchecked, theft, and organized retail crime to grade the communities we call home.”

Cornell said the Minneapolis-based company is now working with lawmakers and law enforcement to come up with public policy solutions. It came after the firm reported $1 billion in losses due to shoplifting and other forms of theft.

Target said last week that theft is cutting into its bottom line, and it expects related losses could be $500 million more than last year when losses from theft were estimated to be anywhere from $700 million to $800 million. So that means losses could top $1.2 billion this year. The company said it’s also seeing an increasing number of violent incidents at stores but does not want to close stores and is expanding security and locking up some items.

Also last week, Kohl’s CFO Jill Timm told analysts that the firm faced inventory shrink during the first fiscal quarter and predicted that such trends will persist.

“We feel like we can definitely put some actions against that to at least moderate it, but we will expect that to continue,” Timm said.

Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner told investors that retail theft has been “really challenging” for his industry, adding that Walmart has to “actively manage this issue,” according to reports. “We’re going to continue to take the steps that are reasonable and required to make sure we’re protecting our customers, protecting our associates, and protecting our assets and inventor,” he said, noting that communities and law enforcement need to also step up.

“It will take communities stepping up and enforcing the law to be able to bring this issue back under control,” he said.

Notably, some retail giants such as Whole Foods and Walgreens have shut down some locations in several major cities due to a surge in retail theft incidents in recent years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
Related Topics