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A National Shoplifting Crisis Emerges

By Alexa Rubinstein

Shoppers have found many products, cosmetics among them, locked away on shelves as stores struggle to address the rise in shoplifting. (Lindsey Nicholson / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Drugstores once known for their open-air racks are now characterized by shelves shielded by censors, alarms, and locks, all by virtue of a nationwide increase in shoplifting.


Shoplifting, the illegal action of removing products from a store while neglecting to pay their value, has always been a consistent issue. However, its recent rise is more alarming and dramatic than ever.


According to Forbes, although businesses account for some periodic loss of revenue, shoplifting “has become a $100 billion problem for retailers,” making it increasingly difficult for businesses to continue.


Just in the last few weeks, thieves have stolen nearly $15,000 worth of beauty products from cosmetic stores in Fort Myers, Florida. Ulta Beauty has identified a series of shoplifting suspects in what was found to be an organized crime between multiple store-goers.

So why exactly has shoplifting experienced a recent influx? Research shows that there may not be a simple reason to blame.


According to CNN Business, “companies and law enforcement experts say the growth of online shopping has allowed criminals to quickly find ways to resell stolen merchandise online.” Due to this, and as holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day come and go, stores packed tightly with restless shoppers provide an optimal situation for a shopper looking to take numerous unpaid items home.


As shoplifting continues, store owners have been desperately searching for solutions to the phenomenon. New York City business owner Deborah Koensigsberger reflected on recent shoplifting incidents, stating that “they just come in, pick up a hanger and walk right straight to the door, they don't even hide it … you feel violated.”


Other frustrated store owners have voiced similar concerns recalling how their stores have been hit by an increased wave of shoplifting thefts.

However, recent reports have shown that shoplifting is not the only source of lost revenue that companies face. In fact, while companies may be exerting a large amount of their time combating shoplifting, revenue is unknowingly being lost through other sources.


As said by Richard Hollinger, a retired Professor at the University of Florida, “you’ve got a problem, but there’s no way to know exactly where the losses are coming from.”


There could be a variety of reasons why companies have lost revenue. As said by CNN business, “organized retail crime is just one component of retailers’ inventory losses.”


Though organized crime like shoplifting is not the only issue storefront businesses are combating, it seems to be the one that has the most straightforward solutions. Easily stolen items can be separated from customers by a plastic division and security cameras can be more closely monitored; yet in the end, they cannot take away the numerical possessions many businesses recall facing.


Shoplifting has existed for over 100 years, and will likely continue. As stores look for more solutions, while deciding what may be “going overboard,” they continue to face various challenges—especially as online shopping expands each day.

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