Jul 28, 2021 - Technology

Companies deploy tech to prevent retail crime

Customers in a Home Depot in Pleasanton, California, in February 2021.

Customers in a Home Depot in Pleasanton, California, in February 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retailers have a new edge for fighting theft: They're using technology to disable stolen goods — from iPhones to Black & Decker drills — and render them useless.

Why it matters: Organized retail crime has a considerable affect on retailers every year, costing them an average of $719,000 per $1 billion dollars in sales, according to estimates from the National Retail Federation.

  • Three in four of victim businesses told NRF in a survey that they have noticed an increase in organized theft-related instances in the past year.

Home Depot recently unveiled Bluetooth activation tech that allows its stores to lock new power tools until they are purchased, Business Insider reports, rendering them useless if they are stolen.

  • The new tech, set to be in all of Home Depot's 1,988 stores, won't change the shopping experience for the average consumer, as the company doesn't want to put everything under lock-and-key.
  • '"We certainly don't want to affect the 99.5% of our customers who are just there to pick up their hammers and nails," Scott Glenn, Home Depot's vice president of asset protection, told Insider.
  • Companies have also been investing in GPS technology to track goods to prevent in-transit cargo crime, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • Apple disabled and tracked demo iPhones that were stolen from stores in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland and Washington, D.C last summer, according to MarketWatch.

The big picture: Several companies told NRF that they have changed or plan on changing in-store rules, how they screen employees and their loss prevention budgets to address organized looting.

  • Target reduced its hours at its five locations in San Francisco last month because of an uptick in retail theft, according to SFGATE.
  • The use of online resellers like eBay and Amazon have helped professional shoplifting rings move goods and operate like a "shadow business" Glenn noted.
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