Retail Shrink Increased in 2019

Apprehensions and recovered dollars edged up, but theft remains a serious problem.

May 07, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Shoplifting and dishonest employees continue to make theft a serious problem for retailers, according to Chain Store Age. Among the retailers participating in the 32nd  Annual Retail Theft Survey, two-thirds (66.7%) reported an increase in shrink in 2019, while 23.8% reported a decrease and 9.5% reported no change.

Conducted by Jack. L. Hayes International, the survey found that overall apprehensions increased 2.44%, with recovery dollars from those apprehensions up 4.88%. Shoplifting apprehensions and recovered dollars increased 3.04% and 3.50% respectively, with recovery dollars from shoplifting incidents without an apprehension increasing by 11% (to $176 million) over the prior year.

The survey also found that for every $1 recovered by surveyed companies, $14.75 was lost to retail theft. “Overall, retail theft continues to be a serious problem for retailers, negatively impacting their bottom line and creating more out-of-stocks and higher prices for the consumer,” Mark R. Doyle, president, Jack L. Hayes International shared in a statement.

Other survey findings include:

 Shoplifter apprehensions: 315,095 shoplifters were apprehended in 2019, up 3.04% from 2018.

• Shoplifter recovery dollars: More than $90 million was recovered from apprehended shoplifters in 2019, an increase of 3.5% from 2018. 

• Employee apprehensions: 32,941 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2019, down 2.93% from 2018. 

• Employee recovery dollars: More than $45 million was recovered from employee apprehensions in 2019, up 7.75% from 2018.

Twenty-one large retail companies ranging from department stores and mass merchandisers/big boxes to specialty apparel and supermarkets participated in the survey. They represented 18,999 stores and more than $510 billion in retail sales.

Hayes International said it has seen a steady and significant rise in shoplifting in recent years. Among the reasons the firm cited for the increase are: increased organized retail crime activity; legislation raising felony threshold levels; more hit-and-run/fleeing shoplifters; fewer staff on the sales floor; and thieves view shoplifting as a high reward, low-risk endeavor.