May 29, 2024 - Food and Drink

Giant Food bans big bags in D.C. stores to fight theft

Shoppers at a Giant Foods in the aisles with carts

Giant Food in D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Giant Food is fighting theft by banning large bags at D.C.-area grocery stores.

Why it matters: Businesses are taking increasingly strict measures to deter shoplifters after retail theft jumped last year. Some customers are unhappy, arguing new policies are restrictive or unfairly target lower-income communities.

Driving the news: Giant installed signs warning shoppers that bags over 14" x 14" x 6" are prohibited. The ban includes suitcases and duffle bags, but not reusable shopping bags.

  • The policy went into effect on May 23 at all D.C. stores and "select" regional branches. In a statement shared with Axios, Giant says the stores under the new policy are experiencing "unprecedented levels of product theft that have become unsustainable for our business."

Zoom in: NBC4 interviewed shoppers at the Shaw store, including a mother carrying a baby bag, who said they were turned away. Others claimed they were able to use large bags without issue.

Between the lines: Earlier this year, a Giant spokesperson told Axios that the chain increased store security, locked up and limited products, and, in some locations, reduced exits and began to use item-tracking cameras at registers.

  • Giant also started receipt checks at its Alabama Ave. location in Southeast, "which has reached a threshold of theft and violence that has become unsustainable," a spokesperson said.

The big picture: Retail theft has increased locally and nationally since the pandemic. Retailers in D.C. lost an estimated $120 million in revenue in 2022 due to theft, according to Capital One data, while the city lost out on roughly $7 million in retail sales tax dollars.

Reality check: Crime is largely down in D.C. from this year to last, according to police data. Violent crime is currently down 27% and robberies 29%, although theft has dropped only 1% (police do not specify what kind).

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