Theft Is Becoming an Increasing Concern for Retailers

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Retailers are expressing more concerns about robberies this year.

Best Buy said this week that its business was facing new pressure from organized crimes and thefts, and it was implementing new security measures in certain areas. One tactic includes putting QR codes on products behind lock-and-key. That allows customers to scan the codes and then check out, so associates don’t need to unlock the items right away.

“We are finding ways where we can lock up product, but still make that a good customer experience,” Corie Barry, Best Buy’s chief executive, said on an earnings call on Tuesday. “In some instances, we’re hiring security. We’re working with our vendors on creative ways we can stage the product.”

Still, she said, the pressure was visible in the company’s financials — she named it as one reason Best Buy saw a decline in its profit margin rate — and “traumatizing for our associates.”

About 69 percent of retailers said they had seen an increase in organized retail crimes in the past year, pointing to factors including the pandemic, policing, changes to sentencing guidelines and the growth of online marketplaces, according to a recent retail security survey from the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. Respondents said that the groups involved have become more aggressive and violent.

This month, a group of about 80 people rushed into a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek, Calif., outside San Francisco, and stole merchandise, with many escaping in speeding cars. There were also “smash-and-grab” robberies at other retailers in San Francisco around the same time, including Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Burberry, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Our priority has always been and will remain the safety of our people, whether that’s the pandemic, whether that is unruly customers, whether that is outright theft, which is a great deal of what we’re seeing right now,” Ms. Barry said this week. “This is a real issue that hurts and scares real people.”

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