“Run Away With the Facts: Is Shoplifting on the Rise?”

As stores and businesses start reopening, a fear of a surge in shoplifting is sweeping the retail community and putting retailers on high alert. While there is a possibility that the pandemic’s economic woes could lead to a higher rate of shoplifting, there are also several other factors that need to be considered, including the potential for increased fraudulent returns, the limited staffing of security guards, and the huge upticks in online shopping. All of these elements must be examined before leaping to the conclusion that shoplifting will necessarily rise.

Shoplifting rates don’t always correspond with recessions. Historically, in fact, recessions have caused a decrease in shoplifting rates. This is largely due to an increase in security measures, such as increased surveillance, higher staff numbers and store inspections as well as the improvement of technological solutions. With store owners addressing preventative measures, it’s simply unlikely that shoplifting rates will be drastically higher due to the pandemic-induced economic recession.

Online shopping has seen tremendous growth in the past two months, with many brands now offering contactless or curbside pickup and delivery services to meet customer demand. This uptick in online sales can make it hard for stores to accurately detect shoplifters, because so much of the customer-employee interaction now takes place electronically or remotely. Without security guards and employees present on the store floor, customer behavior can be hard to monitor, meaning shoplifters may be able to discreetly take items and leave the store with impunity.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of an increase in fraudulent returns. Since shoppers can’t try on or physically investigate clothes and other items, they might be more likely to make purchases without intending to keep the merchandise. Or, if they decide to return the item, they could falsify paperwork or tags in order to receive a refund for something they haven’t actually brought back. This is a huge threat to stores’ bottom lines and can be especially difficult to manage without proper surveillance.

The fear of a surge in shoplifting may be top of mind for retailers, but the same concern should extend to fraud and other types of theft. Stores must ensure their security systems are up to date and that they’re using the latest technological advances to monitor customer behavior. This includes using video surveillance, installing alarms, and regularly inspecting the premises. With a secure level of vigilance, stores can ensure they’re a safe place for customers to visit and shop while understanding that there’s no guarantee shoplifting rates will actually increase.