Shrinkage Is Hurting Retail: Boosts Inflation

From Barron’s last week:

Waheed Abbasi and his co-worker were both with customers on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in January when a man walked up to the front door of his eyeglass shop in Arlington, Va., looking to be let in. They unlocked the door for him, and within seconds four others were inside, too, crowding around Eye See Optique’s central glass case storing dozens of designer frames, from Guccis and Diors to diamond-encrusted Cartiers.

As Abbasi stepped closer, video of the ambush shows, one of the people pulled a knife and smashed the cabinet, sending shards of glass flying. Three more leaned in and began stuffing their fists and pockets full of frames. Another slammed his body against the locked front door, throwing his weight against it three times before it broke and swung open. On their way out, the group of thieves, all of whom were wearing face masks, shattered a second cabinet and emptied it before jumping into a black pickup truck waiting outside. In barely a minute, they had stolen some $60,000 in merchandise and caused thousands of dollars of additional damage. And then they were gone.

The incident is just one example of what industry leaders and law-enforcement officials say is a nationwide surge in violent retail crime, primarily smash-and-grab thefts and armed robberies often occurring in broad daylight or with little apparent fear of consequences. While organized retail crime has been growing for years—with tens of billions of dollars of stolen merchandise reported in 2019—the massive swing toward online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic has made it easier than ever to resell stolen merchandise on such platforms as , eBay , and Facebook Marketplace. Retail thefts, both in total numbers and dollar amounts, are now up roughly 30% since the onset of the pandemic, according to the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, or Clear, which tracks the number of incidents reported across the industry, including some that may have never involved the police.