When stores have to lock up socks, you know we have a crime problem

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

From grocery stores and drugstores to general merchandisers, many American companies have been taking massive hits due to looting and shoplifting.

Some of these companies have already decided to pull out of progressive cities like New York and San Francisco altogether.

And now several major retailers are keeping these items under lock and key in their remaining stores because they’re sick and tired of rampant crime.

New year, new items locked away

Although the U.S. economy is in serious trouble, many of the nation’s retailers have managed to survive; however, they’re keeping their doors open with hesitation.

This hesitation is largely due to something called “inventory shrink,” which is the industry term for theft. 

The National Retail Federation (NFR) says that the average national inventory shrink rate rose 1.4% in 2021 and 1.6% in 2022, but the numbers for 2023 aren’t out yet.

According to Target CEO Brian Cornell, the company has seen “an unacceptable amount of retail theft and organized retail crime.”

He continued, “Shrink in the second quarter remained consistent with our expectations but well above the sustainable level where we expect to operate over time.”

The comments from Cornell were made during an August Q2 earnings call. 

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said something similar in the same month, stating, “We do think that in some jurisdictions here in the U.S., there needs to be action taken to help protect people from crime, including theft.”

He added that retail shrink increased in 2022 and 2023, but it’s more prevalent in some parts of the country than in others.

Big metropolitan areas have witnessed some of the biggest spikes in retail crime since 2019, with some urban areas seeing double-digit increases in theft.

Part of the blame lands on cities like San Francisco, thanks to their soft stance on crime paired with their inability to combat theft. 

As a result, many major retailers are taking drastic measures to protect their inventory, putting items like cosmetics and laundry detergent under lock and key.

But now, they’re also locking up new items like underwear and socks as a deterrent against shoplifting.

High-ticket items like electronics have already been locked up at many big box retailers and drugstores for years.

Now, some customers feel like locking up socks and underwear is much too extreme, with one customer saying, “I’d be very upset. I got to call somebody to come up from the counter to get socks.”

All eyes are on California

Several Target stores in California, including locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, are starting to lock up undergarments.

At least one Walmart in Richmond, California has also taken up a similar measure after employees said the store was seeing theft every day.

Many customers say they now have to wait close to 10 minutes or longer to have an associate come and unlock the items.

Target claims that “on a limited basis, we employ theft deterrent merchandising strategies, such as locking cases, for categories that are prone to theft.”

These large retailers have been asking local lawmakers for help, but so far, not much has been done. 

Informed American will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.