Shrinking Retail Shrinkage Makes the Shoplifting ‘Crisis’ Narrative a Hard Sell

Last winter, news articles were full of stories of alleged shoplifting”crisis.” These stories often included colorful quotes from certain retail spokespersons and statements such as “the rise [in shoplifting] is related to the ease of reselling stolen goods online. Some may have been surprised when on September 14 the National Retail Federation (NRF) released the latest edition of its annual report. National Retail Security Surveywhich found that the average retail “shrinkage” (the retail industry term for inventory loss, e.g., theft) declined in 2021 to levels comparable to 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2009, and lower than the levels observed in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Source: Retail Security Survey 2022, National Retail Federation, p. 9

Like I previously notedeven before the 2021 NRF shrinkage figures were available, there was no evidence that shoplifting was anything more than a relatively flat phenomenon stretching back decades in official NRF shrinkage figures.

Source: National Retail Federation, Annual Retail Security Surveys

In a curious coincidence, many of the retail spokespersons pushing the disproved narrative of a significant increase in shoplifting were from groups pushing for legislative proposals that would burden digital commerce. The false “crisis” narrative of shoplifting has been used to justify various legislative proposals increasing regulatory burdens on digital commerce, including versions of the so-called SHOP SAFE and INFORM Bill proposals that would collectively make it nearly impossible operating an online marketplace that helps small and medium-sized businesses sell their products to consumers. As DisCo has observed before, large incumbent retail interests have repeatedly rallied behind the legislation. aiming to both online competitors and online marketplaces that lower entry barriers for small and medium retailers.

Hopefully the latest retail inventory ‘shrink’ data from the NRF, which disproves the shoplifting ‘crisis’ narrative, will end calls for costly legislation that would reduce the competitive advantages of selling. retail for consumers to solve a non-existent problem.

About Catherine Sturm

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