Mar 7, 2023 - News

Shoplifting deterrents can drive down sales

Body wash, a commonly stolen item, is locked up in some stores. Photo: Kelly Tyko/Axios

San Francisco and Oakland are among the top areas affected by organized retail theft, according to a recent survey, but efforts to combat theft can cause sales to drop.

Why it matters: Precautions to prevent a rise in retail theft mean everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent to baby formula is kept under lock and key. But these safeguards are deterring shoppers from making in-store purchases, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.

State of play: Large metro areas where retail theft has been higher often have more inventory behind locked cases than rural areas, and San Francisco and Oakland together rank second on the list of areas most affected by organized retail crime, according to the National Retail Federation's 2022 National Retail Security Survey.

  • Locked cases can cause sales to drop 15% to 25%, Joe Budano, CEO of anti-theft technology company Indyme, told Axios.
  • The inconvenience of locked cases — and having to find an employee to open them for things like razors, body wash and technology items — end up driving customers to shop online, GlobalData retail analyst Neil Saunders said.
  • Stolen merchandise is also often sold on online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Facebook, Saunders said.

My thought bubble: I refuse to buy dish soap, deodorant and other basic items at certain Walgreens and Safeway stores in San Francisco because of these deterrents.

  • The time it takes to get an employee to come over and unlock the case is just not worth the hassle, especially when I can easily buy these items elsewhere.

Between the lines: Earlier this year, Walgreens said it may have overblown concerns about retail theft at its stores.

What to watch: In December, state Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced a bill (AB 23) that would lower the threshold for more serious retail theft from $950 to $400.

  • "We need to protect our communities against retail theft crimes, or the 'smash and grab' crimes that have become commonplace," Muratsuchi previously told Axios.

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