They are brazen, aggressive and seemingly acting without a care in the world.
Shoplifters are hurting big retailers and chain stores, even reportedly forcing some locations in New York City and San Francisco to close up. But unlike many big retailers that can absorb the loss, some small-business owners say the crime wave is devastating to their business, especially now, with many still recovering from a global pandemic.
“[When] you see … several thousand dollars just walk out the door — there really aren’t words that you can put to a situation like that. It’s just tough. It’s very, very difficult,” said small-business owner Derek Friedman.
Small business owner Derek Friedman
Friedman, who owns two retail clothing chains in Colorado and Texas – Sportsfan and Sock Em’ Sock Emporium – said four out of his 10 stores in the Denver area have seen a significant increase in theft since mid-2019, with losses totaling more than $200,000 in less than three years.—
“Our average losses to theft before the beginning of the spike in 2019 were $2,000-$3,000 per month,” Friedman said. Since then, the retail value of stolen items has “averaged about $8,000 a month,” he said.
Exterior of Sportsfan store in Denver, Colorado
“We had to delay pay increases … [and] for almost two years, I took no income and just lived off of retirement as we tried to crawl out of Covid and try to recover from all the losses from the brazen theft,” Friedman said.
He’s not alone. According to a recent survey of 700 small-business owners by Business.org, 54% reported an increase in shoplifting last year, with one in four saying they’re dealing with the issue on a weekly basis.
In one surveillance video Friedman shared with CNBC, a shoplifter picks up a jersey and hat, then threatens employees with a 2-foot-long machete and walks out of the store with stolen merchandise. Friedman said he reported the incident to police, but to his knowledge, no one was apprehended.
Friedman said he was on the brink of losing his insurance because of the number of incidents his businesses were enduring.
“I didn’t even turn [some claims] into insurance because we would have [been dropped] — and a small business can’t afford to operate without insurance,” he said.
Last week, Friedman implemented a 1% crime-spike fee to help offset his losses at four of his hardest-hit Denver stores, which will be added to all transactions indefinitely. And that may be just the starting point.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to raise it,” he said. “I understood that [shoplifting was always a part of doing business] when I bought retail stores … but not at this level. We didn’t sign up for that, and it’s not right,— and it needs to change.”
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