Organized crime is now one of the biggest challenges for retailers in the U.S. with loss prevention teams reporting a significant rise in cargo thefts last year and the increasing use of violence by offenders …

The latest Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) in the United States reveals that 73% of the 63 retailers who participated anonymously in the survey suffered cargo thefts in 2019 compared to just 30% in 2018.

The NRF is the world’s leading retail trade association and represents an industry which contributes $2.6 trillion to the country’s GDP and supports one in four U.S. jobs. Conducted annually, the report helps retailers measure the impact of organised retail crime and understand ‘evolving tactics to fight the ongoing challenge.’

Overall, 97% of those surveyed said they had been victims of ORC in the past 12 months. Despite retailers’ best efforts, the industry has yet to see a meaningful reduction in the impact of these crimes, which continue to present a serious challenge. Data for 2019 shows losses for the 63 companies participating in the survey of $703,320 for every $1 billion in sales.

One of the factors contributing to the continuing threat is rising felony thresholds that reduce the risk for ORC criminals, the NRF survey says. It also points to the growing use of violence by ORC gangs: 68% said they felt ORC offenders are exerting more aggression and violence than they did a year ago.

Looking at the industry’s response, the report states:

·         65% said ORC is more of a priority for their organisation now compared with five years ago

·         About a quarter of respondents said their companies had made changes to address ORC or plan to do so, including changes to point-of-sale and returns policies

·         Approximately half are allocating additional technology resources and increasing their loss prevention budgets to address the overall risk

·         16% have changed their employee screening policy

Additionally, 71% believe a federal law is needed to effectively combat this issue.

Looking at the types of organised retail crime, the survey states: “Retail supply chains offer ORC gangs the chance to steal merchandise in large quantities, often before it even reaches the store. A majority of retailers surveyed said they’ve been a victim of cargo theft in the past year. En route from distribution center to store in the most common place for cargo theft to occur.”

Within the 12 months, the top five locations of cargo thefts were recorded as:

·         59% - en route from the distribution center to a store

·         33% - at a distribution center

·         30% - en route from one store to another store

·         24% - at the store

·         22% - en route from the manufacturer to the distribution center

One popular strategy for ORC gangs is to steal merchandise, then return it in the form of merchandise credit or gift cards. They then sell these credits for cash. Loss prevention teams most commonly identify this type of theft on websites. Not surprisingly, most ORC activity is seen around larger cities and regions.  

The items most stolen in ORCs in 2019, according to those completing the survey, were:

·         Designer clothes = 25%

·         Infant formula = 16%

·         Razors = 16%

·         Designer handbags = 15%

·         Laundry detergent = 15%

·         Denim pants = 13%

·         Energy drinks = 11%

·         Alergy medicine = 10%

·         High-end liquor = 10%

·         Teeth whitening strips = 8%

·         Pain relievers = 8%

·         Cigarettes = 7%

·         Deodorant = 7%

·         Laptops/tablets = 7%

·         Weight loss pills = 7%