2023 NRSS Release| 9.26.23

Sep 26, 2023 | Community, LPRC Article, News, Press Release

Increasing Theft and Violence Continue to Harm Retailers, Retail Workers, and the Communities they Serve

Gainesville, Florida, September 26, 2023 – According to the National Retail Federation’s 2023 National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), retail crime continues to harm retailers, their employees, and the communities they serve. This survey, conducted in partnership with the Loss Prevention Research Council, shows that retail theft, violence, and other types of retail crime increased throughout the industry in 2022.

“Addressing violent crime and protecting employee safety remain retailers’ greatest priority” according to Dr. Read Hayes, Director of the LPRC and Research Scientist at UF. Dr. Hayes has been in the industry for nearly 40 years, and suggests that “retailers are facing challenges [he] would never have imagined a decade ago.” Unfortunately, according to David Johnston, NRF Vice President of Asset Protection and Retail Operations, the “situation is only becoming more dire.”

According to the NRSS, 88% of retailers reported shoplifters are more aggressive and violent when compared to one year ago. The report also reveals that 72% of retailers report violence during the commission of a crime is more of a priority compared to one year ago, while 65% report guest-on-associate violence is more of a priority.

“Retail violence and aggression is often related to organized retail crime, especially localized forms of ORC,” according to Dr. Cory Lowe, Senior Research Scientist at the LPRC and principal investigator on the NRSS for the LPRC. The report defines ORC as “theft or fraud conducted with the intent to convert illegally obtained merchandise, cash, cargo or cash equivalent for financial gain.” Nevertheless, 67% of retailers reported that aggression and violence associated with organized retail crime has increased in the past year.

According to Lowe, individuals and groups engaged in ORC often target items that have several of the CRAVED characteristics; that is, they are “concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable, and/or disposable.” These characteristics make them ideal targets for individuals seeking to convert merchandise to cash. For example, items such as laundry detergent pods, handbags, fresh and frozen seafood, athletic shoes, over-the-counter medication, infant formula, and skin and beauty products are often targeted, according to the NRSS. This year, retailers identified Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Houston, New York and Seattle as the cities and metropolitan areas most affected by ORC.

Of course, all of this contributes to increased retail shrink. According to the NRSS, the average industry-wide shrink rate increased from 1.4% in fiscal year 2021 to 1.6% in fiscal year 2022. This represents approximately $112 billion in losses in 2022, up from an estimated $94 billion in 2021.* However, shrink differs considerably by sector. For example, pharmacy, grocery, department stores, and mass merchandise stores reported shrink rates of over 2%, on average. Alternatively, retailers in the jewelry, watch, home furnishings and furniture, and footwear sectors reported shrink rates of less than 1.5%, on average.

Dr. Lowe cautions readers to avoid conflating the retail shrink problem with the harms of retail crime because “shrink is comprised of both criminal and non-criminal sources.” For example, in fiscal year 2022, retailers attributed 36% of shrink to external theft; 29% to employee theft; 27% to process, control failures, and errors; 6% to unknown sources; and 1% to other sources, on average. However, the second problem according to Lowe, is that “shrink does not account for many of the other harms associated with retail crime, especially violent crime.”

Given the challenges described in the report, retailers are dedicating additional resources to address retail crime and losses. As mentioned previously, workplace safety remains a key priority among retailers, and 54% report they are increasing employee workplace violence training. However, 34% reported increasing internal payroll to address risks, 46% have increased their use of third-party security, and 54% reported they are increasing their budgets for technology and software solutions.

“Retailers remain committed to innovating to protect vulnerable people, places, and property” according to Dr. Hayes. As the NRSS shows, retailers are increasingly turning to mobile surveillance units to protect parking lots, and are using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to provide better inventory insights. However, “retailers are continuing to explore innovative technologies” according to Dr. Hayes, and are “trialing technologies such as body-worn cameras and computer vision analytics.” 

However, retailers have also adjusted their policies in response to these changes. According to the NRSS, 41% of respondents reported that none of their employees are authorized to stop or apprehend shoplifters. According to Dr. Lowe, retail companies adopt these “hands off” policies because retail offenders often pose a serious threat to retail employees and guests. However, this puts “retailers in a difficult position because it creates the impression among retail offenders that no one will intervene in retail crimes.”

While there is a “role for technology, tactics, and company policies to play in addressing these issues, these are only part of the solution,” according to Dr. Lowe. For fiscal year 2022, retailers attributed the largest portion of retail shrink to shoplifting, burglary, robbery, and other crimes committing by non-employees. Lowe suggests that “those who victimize retailers and retail workers come from, and return to, the surrounding communities,” because of this, “changes to public policies and practices must be part of the solution.”

*The 2021 figures have been updated to reflect the U.S Census Bureau’s April 2023 revisions to retail sales; therefore, losses differ from what was reported in the 2022 NRSS.

About the NRSS

The 2023 National Retail Security Survey was conducted online by senior loss prevention and security executives in the retail industry. This year’s results contain insights from 177 retail brands, which accounted for $1.6 trillion of annual retail sales in 2022, and represent more than 97,000 retail locations across the United States. The study was done in partnership with the Loss Prevention Research Council and is sponsored by Appriss Retail. Click here to view the report.

About the NRF
The National Retail Federation passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $3.9 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 52 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies. nrf.com

About the LPRC
The Loss Prevention Research Council was founded in 2000 by leading retailers and Dr. Read Hayes, an NRSS co-founder, in an effort to support the evidence-based needs of loss prevention decision-makers. To date, the LPRC has conducted over 300 studies with retailers and other research partners. The LPRC strives to provide comprehensive research and development opportunities, and collaborative spaces for members that enable the innovation of retail loss and crime control solutions. lpresearch.org