The retail crime wave of 2022 continued as the year came to a close, but a few merchants are notching some wins as awareness of the theft problem ramps up.
Eighteen-year-old Santiago Rico of Boca Raton, Fla. was arrested on Dec. 29 after being caught shoplifting more than $1,000 dollars’ worth of merchandise from a Neiman Marcus store. A Boca Raton Police Services Department report said three loss prevention personnel at the luxury retailer took Rico into custody after he allegedly stole four pairs of jeans.
The loss prevention staff told Boca Raton police that Rico fought back when they attempted to apprehend him before they eventually escorted the suspect back to their office. Police said Rico was cooperative and admitted to the theft.
Rico was transported to Boca Regional Hospital and then later to the Palm Beach County Jail where he was booked for battery, resisting arrest, resisting recovery of property, grand theft and carrying a concealed, unlicensed weapon, the report said.
Walmart deploys loss prevention pilot
While the Neiman Marcus store employees were able to prevent the merchandise from leaving store premises, businesses like Walmart, CVS and Walgreens are taking proactive measures against organized retail crime by locking up more of their smaller, less expensive products.
In the case of Walmart, the retailer is keeping beauty products, jewelry, footwear and socks behind a glass wall that can only be unlocked via SmartResponse technology from customer engagement and loss prevention solutions provider Indyme.
In 2022, Walmart began testing this new locked case, which can be opened by any employee with a smartphone. This is designed to eliminate the need to track down the individual employee with the right physical key. The SmartSense solutions help detect suspicious events using Indyme’s own shopper behavior sensors or through integration with third party sensors and IP cameras.
Walmart has not revealed how many stores the pilot extends to, and has not yet responded to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.
Walmart has good reason to lock products down, with CEO Doug McMillon saying in December that the increase in theft could not only impact prices, but even lead the mass merchant to close some of its more than 4,000 stores nationwide.
The retail giant recently dealt with a shoplifting incident of its own at a store in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City police are currently searching for a suspect accused of shoplifting and shooting at a security guard Monday night. No one was injured but the suspect fled the scene, according to police.
11 arrested in Seattle crime operation
Rounding up criminals in Seattle continues as the city and the state of Washington cracks down on retail crime. Officers arrested 11 shoplifting suspects at three different stores during a retail theft operation in downtown Seattle on Thursday afternoon, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) said in a blog post.
During the operation, detectives and officers worked with store loss prevention teams to identify prolific shoplifters in the store. Officers watched multiple suspects walk out of the store with no attempt to pay for items including clothing, makeup, food and liquor. Police then arrested the shoplifters and returned the stolen merchandise to the store.
One of the suspects arrested for shoplifting also had nine outstanding warrants. Officers booked the man into King County Jail for theft and several of his warrants. Police booked seven additional suspects into King County Jail for theft, and identified and released three others from the West Precinct.
December robberies rock Rainbow, Ulta Beauty stores
Additional shoplifting incidents occurred last month in an Ulta Beauty store in Mayfield Heights, Ohio and a Rainbow location in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
Surveillance video at the Ulta Beauty location showed three shoplifters exit the store one night with four baskets full of unpaid merchandise, with the store manager calculating that the suspects stole $28,824worth of goods.
The store manager said the three suspects, a man and two women, walked right past the shift manager, who moved out of their way without questioning them and watched as they stole more merchandise.
And in Florida, a shoplifter got away with $200 in merchandise from Rainbow, the urban fashion retailer, but not before getting stuck at a locked door, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said that the man attempted to leave the business with his hands full of clothing, only to find the front entrance locked because it was almost closing time.
The sheriff’s office said the enraged suspect yelled for the employees to open the door. He dropped the clothing that was in his hands and forcefully attempted to open the locked door, before realizing he could unlock it himself.
Before leaving, he shoved one of the store employees to the ground, then picked up a pile of clothing from a nearby clothing rack and ran out.
Five minors arrested after footwear store burglary
While much of the attention has gone to how big retailers are handling the national theft problem, small businesses have experienced firsthand how troublesome the issue has become. Nearly 56 percent of small retailers say they have been victims of shoplifting in the past year, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey.
In Memphis, Tenn. a recent retail crime hotbed, five minors were arrested after stealing more than $3,000 in merchandise from a boutique sneaker store, according to the Memphis Police Department (MPD).
On Dec. 29, the MPD responded to a burglary at Valid Kixx. When officers arrived, they found a group of five people standing in front of a broken window, holding shoes.
Two 13-year-olds, two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old were arrested after a brief foot chase. All five were charged with burglary and theft of property of items between $2,500 and $10,000 and were taken to juvenile court.
Valid Kixx has been an ongoing target for retail criminals, having been hit four times in the year prior to the late December incident. In November, a smash-and-grab robbery cost the retailer $100,000 in merchandise, as a group of 20 to 30 masked burglars broke a window and pilfered the location. That investigation is still ongoing, according to the MPD.
The retailer’s story was all too common for SMBs in heavily populated areas in 2022, with stores like Detroit’s High Denim Rollers, Long Beach, Calif.-area Street Sole and Minneapolis-based KKG Kickz among the many businesses that incurred thousands of dollars in losses due to smash-and-grab robberies. KKG Kickz had to shutter operations entirely after enduring five thefts in a six-month span.
For the businesses that have kept their doors open in the wake of shoplifting incidents, they now have to recoup the losses elsewhere. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in September said 46 percent of small businesses say they have had to raise prices due to shoplifting.
TikToker’s viral video sheds light on Marshalls shoe swapping
Smash-and-grab robberies aren’t the only form of retail crime that merchants are currently fighting.
A TikTok video has gone viral after showing an alleged method of shoe theft at a Marshalls location. TikTok user @therealprettygabriela shows a beat-up pair of Nike shoes in a Madden Girl shoe box. According to the TikToker, who identified herself as “Gabriela,” a shopper seems to have have removed their shoes in the store, put on the new pair and put their own, used pair in the new shoes’ place.
“Now which one of y’all switched y’all shoes out at Marshalls,” she asked in the video’s text overlay.
The top comment on the video, with more than 22,700 likes, said “I worked at Nordstrom Rack and people did this a lot.” Another TikTok user cosigned, saying “I worked at Target and this was so normal.”