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Exclusive: New survey reveals consumer attitudes on shoplifting

Most, but not all, consumers think shoplifting is unacceptable.

Whether consumers think shoplifting is wrong can depend on the circumstances.

Results from a new survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers from YouGov that have been exclusively released to Chain Store Age show that a combined 80% of respondents believe shoplifting is either a very (43%) or somewhat (37%) serious problem in the U.S.

While two-thirds (67%) of respondents believe shoplifting is never acceptable, 4% say it is always acceptable and 19% say it can be acceptable under certain circumstances. When asked when shoplifting can be acceptable, respondents who said it is sometimes or always acceptable or were unsure cited situations such as the perpetrator being poor (9%), starving (17%), or waiting in a long line to pay (2%).

Security issues

Respondents were also asked a number of questions relating to security around shoplifting. Close to half (49%) think store employees should be required to intervene if a shoplifter has no weapon, although that number drops to 35% if a shoplifter is unarmed but threatening employees and only 20% in the case of an armed shoplifter.

Slightly more than half (51%) of respondents have reported or confronted a shoplifter. More than eight in 10 (82%) have been to a store where many products are kept locked behind security cases to reduce the risk of being stolen.

While about seven in 10 (69%) respondents think keeping products locked behind security cases reduces the risk of theft, 44% say it makes the shopping experience worse. One in five think security cases make the shopping experience better, while 29% say it makes no difference.

One in 10 respondents admitted to having shoplifted at least once as an adult aged 16 or older. The leading reason was not being able to pay (51%), but 20% wanted to make money reselling the item and 22% did it for the thrill.

NRF: Retail shrink nears $100 billion

According to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail shrink, when taken as a percentage of total retail sales in 2021, accounted for $94.5 billion in losses in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. The average shrink rate in 2021 was 1.44%, a slight decrease from the last two years but comparable to the five-year average of 1.5%.

The COVID-19 pandemic created more challenges for retailers, according to the report. A large majority (87.3%) of respondents said the pandemic resulted in an increase in overall risk for their organization. Retailers specifically cited an increase in violence (89.3%), shoplifting (73.2%), organized retail crime (ORC) and employee theft (tied at 71.4%) as a result of the pandemic.


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