Influential lobbying group retracts statements on US organised retail crime

An influential US retail lobbying group has retracted a major claim it made about ‘organised’ shoplifting in the country.

A widely circulated report published last April by the National Retail Federation claimed that organised retail crime (ORC) was responsible for nearly half of the $94.5 billion in store merchandise that disappeared in 2021.

This report however recently saw its claims challenged by trade publication Retail Dive, which found that available data suggests that ORC is not driving shrink increases in US retail. The publication also found that the NRF’s conclusions were drawn from only 177 of its 16,000 member retailers – which represents just over one per cent of members.

Further reporting from the New York Times found that retail theft has actually decreased in most major US cities by around seven per cent.

Now in a remarkable move, the NRF has retracted its previous claims.

The body in a statement said that it stands behind the “widely understood fact that organised retail crime is a serious problem impacting retailers of all sizes and communities across our nation” despite there being little evidence to support this.

Major retailers like Target and Walgreens had cited the report as evidence to justify militarising security via private security firms and even to close locations where, they said, large shoplifting operations had cut into profits and inconvenienced customers by locking up items.

Walgreens chief financial officer James Kehoe earlier this year admitted that the company had “cried too much” over the prevalence of retail theft following a wave of viral videos and right wing news coverage of the phenomenon. After going the private security route, Kehoe admitted that the measures were “excessive” and “largely ineffective”, noting that the company would move back to relying on law enforcement.

The issue has also been used as a wedge by conservative politicians who have used it as a weapon to attack Democrats they have branded as ‘soft on crime’. Twice impeached former president Donald Trump at a rally called on shoplifters to be shot on site.

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