The CEOs of Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Home Depot and CVS are among a group of 20 retail leaders who sent a letter Thursday to Congress expressing their concern over a recent wave of brazen store robberies in major US cities and urged lawmakers to take action.
The group called on Congress to pass legislation that would deter criminals from being able to easily resell stolen merchandise, specifically online.
“As millions of Americans have undoubtedly seen on the news in recent weeks and months, retail establishments of all kinds have seen a significant uptick in organized crime in communities across the nation,” the letter said.
Criminals are “capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers,” the retailers said. As a result, retailers are a target for increasing theft.
“In the current environment, criminal networks and unscrupulous businesses have exploited a system that protects their anonymity to sell unsafe, stolen or counterfeit products with little legal recourse,” the letter added, which was also signed by the CEOs of Dollar General, Levi Strauss, Kroger Co. and Footlocker.
The group urged Congress to pass a bill that would make it easier for consumers to identify exactly who they are buying from, and harder for criminals to hide behind fake identities as they try to sell stolen merchandise online.
San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are among the cities that have seen a spate of recent smash-and-grab mob attacks targeting some upscale stores such as Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton.
Several Best Buy outlets in Minnesota were also looted on Black Friday.
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said theft is a growing problem and the company is implementing added security measure to safeguard employees and shoppers.
“This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable,” Barry said in a recent call with analysts. “We are doing everything we can to try to create [an] as safe as possible environment.”
The retail industry is struggling to handle the escalation in organized theft. A 2020 survey of 61 retailers by the National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group, showed organized retail theft jumped nearly 60% from 2015 and cost stores an average of $719,548 per $1 billion dollars in sales.
Industry experts say store theft is now an acute problem and getting worse.
“The gangs are much more dangerous for retailers and for customers shopping in stores,” said Neil Saunders, retail analyst and managing director at GlobalData Retail. “The problem is that while store security and associates can take individual shoplifters to task, they are not able to do much against gangs as they are outnumbered.”
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