Many retailers are emptying their shelves across the country, but not because of low stock. A concerning increase in thefts has pushed companies to put more products under lock and key, the Wall Street Journal reports.
At one Best Buy store in the suburbs of Houston, where hundreds of items like Bose speakers and Fitbit activity trackers used to sit on the shelves, shoppers will instead find small blue signs that read, "This product kept in secured location."
Surging crime rates across the country are hitting retailers hard. The National Retail Federation's 2022 Retail Security Survey found that retailers lost $94.5 billion overall in 2021 mainly due to external theft and organized retail crime. Theft attempts at Home Depot are on the rise compared with before the pandemic, Home Depot vice president of asset protection Scott Glenn told the Journal. Last year, the supermarket giant Kroger for the first time listed organized theft as a factor pressuring profit margins. Starbucks has had to close 16 U.S. stores this year because of drug-related incidents and other disruptions, the Journal reported.
Twelve Democrat-run cities hit record-high crime rates last year, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Voters have responded by turning on left-wing prosecutors who support lighter sentences, less policing, and the elimination of cash bail. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has blamed the crime spike on "illegal gun trafficking" and has focused on gun control legislation.
"Organized retail crime is more than petty shoplifting, and the economic impact has become alarming," Retail Industry Leaders Association senior executive vice president of public affairs Michael Hanson said in 2021. "Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online through marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook."
While Best Buy has always kept its high-valued items locked in the back, the number of locked items is higher in locations like Houston, where police data show that crime rates have risen.
Executives fear that more secured items will inconvenience customers and reduce sales. Some retailers are looking into "customer-friendly, higher-tech" security solutions, while others are giving employees more safety training.