Each year, the UK’s Centre for Retail Research generates an estimate of retail losses due to shoplifting and identity theft during the Christmas shopping season (the six-week period between mid-November and the end of December). In addition, the Centre estimates the increased prices that each family will have to pay in order to make up the cost incurred by shoplifting and identity theft.
Among the 19 countries studied, the Centre estimated that thieves would cost families an average of $63.14 per family. But in the United States, the numbers were markedly higher: U.S. retailers stood to lose an estimated $8.9 billion, a 4.4 percent increase from 2011. The trickle-down cost to each family would come out to an average of $98.49.
An explanation for 2012’s increased losses is that the dishonest individuals are getting more and more creative about how to relieve stores of their merchandise. According to New York Magazine’s Charlotte Cowles, “Fraudulent returns – which include returning stolen merchandise for a cash refund, as well as ‘wardrobing,’ a dumb name for when people buy something, wear it a few times, and then return it – are also particularly problematic this year.”
In a WWD article on the Centre for Retail Research’s new report, a loss-prevention officer from Forever 21’s Times Square location suggested that the early start to holiday shoplifting might have been triggered by “distressed and down-and-out” people resorting to desperate measures. Whether the blame should be placed on the economy, unemployment or elsewhere, the fact remains that the losses (and costs incurred by individuals) are steep.
A common theme that runs through many of the responses to the report is that people seem eager to blame the surge in theft – in its various forms – to an outside force, as though hard times justify irresponsibility. Do desperate times truly explain such desperate measures, or are people just looking for ways to excuse bad behavior? Weigh in here.