Retailers face more challenges than ever concerning loss prevention. The most recent statistics show a shoplifting spike, often done by repeat offenders and organized retail crime (ORC). Statistics show that 75 percent of shoplifters are adults and retailers lose an estimated $30 billion annually through ORC.

This upward trend in crime statistics related to shoplifting and theft has led to an increased demand for experts in loss prevention. A loss prevention manager is essential to any retail operation, helping stores deal with “shrink.” The term refers to inventory loss through theft or accident. The causes of shrink include shoplifting, theft by employees, administrative mistakes, and fraud committed by customers returning items. 

A loss prevention manager focuses on combating the rising tide of theft at retail establishments. Given the trend in ORC and theft, it’s a job with more challenges than ever.

Shoplifting Has Become A Common Occurrence

The most recent statistics on shoplifting are staggering. According to statistics highlighted by Capital One Shopping:

  • Stores lost $112.1 billion to retail theft in 2022; projections indicate shoplifting could cost retailers over $140 billion in 2025.
  • Shoplifting losses grew 19.4% year-over-year; as a share of retail sales dollars, theft losses increased 10.5%.
  • Stores catch shoplifters roughly 2.0% of the time; the average shoplifter is arrested once out of every 100 incidents.

The most frequently stolen goods include fashion items; arts, crafts, and gifts; homewares; electronics and music; books; sports-related items; musical instruments; collectibles and antiques; and toys and baby items.

New Challenges Arising in Loss Prevention

The rapidly evolving landscape of loss prevention is confronting a significant surge in retail crime, driven by factors like economic distress and sophisticated organized retail crime (ORC) groups. These groups are not only engaging in opportunistic theft but are also targeting high-value items for resale in secondary markets, leading to substantial losses for stores. A striking example of this trend is Target’s announcement of preparing to absorb losses up to half a billion dollars in 2023 due to rising theft, highlighting the acute challenges in loss prevention.

Moreover, the escalation in retail theft is intertwined with broader challenges that retailers, particularly in urban areas, are facing. The migration of high earners from large cities, the increasing dominance of e-commerce, and persistent labor shortages are reshaping the retail landscape. These factors contribute to reduced foot traffic and altered consumer spending patterns, adding layers of complexity for brick-and-mortar stores.

Compounding these challenges is the rise in shoplifting incidents, prompting many businesses to reassess their self-checkout policies. As reported, the perceived benefits of self-checkout systems, initially implemented to cut labor costs, are being outweighed by increased theft and resultant losses. These self-service machines have inadvertently contributed to a rise in ‘shrink’, a term denoting losses due to theft and errors. Consequently, retailers are being compelled to reevaluate the balance between offering customer convenience and implementing effective loss prevention strategies.

How Loss Prevention Mitigates The Risks of Shoplifting

Retailers face inventory shrink from many different places. For example, 47 percent of high school students say they have shoplifted at least once. The average amount lost in a shoplifting incident is $559.

Loss prevention managers make a difference. Their work involves every aspect of a retail operation where the potential for theft occurs, either from an external or internal source. They work to strengthen computer systems against hacks and create policies limiting access to sensitive information. They oversee performance audits to ensure store goods are handled correctly. Loss prevention managers strategize the best security measures to lower the risk of shoplifting.

They also recommend appropriate technology. For example, adequately implemented face recognition software can reduce theft by as much as 34 percent, partly because 60 percent of shoplifters visit multiple locations of the same retail chain.

NMU Global Campus Loss Prevention Management Degree

NMU Global Campus offers an online Bachelor of Science in Loss Prevention Management degree program led by an experienced faculty in loss prevention. Students in the program learn about current significant threats in ORC and shoplifting and the advanced methods used to combat them. For example, the program teaches graduate students how to use analytics to make data-driven decisions in loss prevention. 

The 100% online program gives students the flexibility to earn a graduate degree while working a full-time job.

Loss prevention management is a challenging, rewarding job that will remain in high demand in the coming years. A BS in Loss Prevention Management can provide a key step toward establishing a successful career in this growing field.