Pandemic led to rise in retail security threats in US: NRF study

20 Aug '21
3 min read
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock

Organised retail crime (ORC) and numerous other security concerns evolved in the United States in 2020, and most US retailers attribute the rise in crime to the pandemic, according to the 2021 Retail Security Survey released recently by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

While 69 per cent said the pandemic resulted in an increase in overall risk for their organization, respondents specifically mentioned the impact on workplace violence (61 per cent) and organised retail crime (57 per cent).

“Retailers have continuously pivoted throughout the pandemic to ensure their employees can work within a safe environment and their customers can shop safely, whether in stores, online or through avenues like buy online, pick up in store,” NRF vice president for research development and industry analysis Mark Mathews said in a press release.

“But new ways of shopping have also opened up new avenues for criminal activity. As retailers adapt to address these new security threats, the need for federal support is even greater to combat these dangerous and harmful activities,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the risk environment for retailers on several fronts.

Mandated store shutdowns and other shopping restrictions that occurred throughout 2020 had an impact on where fraudulent activity occurred. Around 39 per cent of respondents said they saw the greatest increase in fraud in multi-channel sales channels like buy online pick up in store, up from 19 per cent the year before.

In contrast, just 28 per cent said the greatest increase in fraud came from in-store-only sales, down from 49 per cent the year before. The per cent of those who pointed to online-only sales fraud remained flat.

The survey found that while the overall shrink rate remained relatively steady compared with 2019, it remains above the average of the last five years. Respondents reported an average shrink rate of 1.6 per cent, unchanged from last year’s high.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that a majority of retailers (65 per cent) agree that ORC gangs are exhibiting higher levels of aggression and violence than they did the year before. Retailers cited COVID-19, policing and changes to sentencing guidelines and the growth of online marketplaces as top reasons behind the increase in ORC activity.

ORC gangs target a variety of stolen items including designer clothing (reported by 22 per cent of retail respondents), laundry detergent (17 per cent), designer handbags, allergy medicine, razors and high-end liquor (tied at 15 per cent each), pain relievers (13 per cent) and infant formula and teeth whitening strips (tied at 11 per cent each).

The top five cities for ORC in the past year in order were Los Angeles, San Francisco/ Oakland, Chicago, New York and Miami.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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