Modern Training, Operational Support

We asked 300 retail managers about theft. Here’s what we learned.

Posted on: October 20, 2023Updated on: January 24, 2024By: Richia McCutcheon

Over the past year, we’ve seen a worrying increase in retail theft, and the stories we’re hearing from frontlines keep getting worse. Case in point: in April, our own research found that 50% of retail associates have witnessed a theft. Today, this number has increased to 70%. The rise in retail theft is concerning for a number of reasons, from personal safety to the financial drain for retailers, to the tune of $95 billion in losses in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation.  

Anti-theft scanner at the front entrance of a retail store

We’re always looking to learn more about theft prevention strategies. To explore the current state of retail theft, organized retail crime and retail violence further, we polled 300 retail managers. Here’s a first look at what we learned: 

Theft and customer violence are increasingly urgent issues in the retail industry, with many frontline managers and staff reporting increases even in the past month

  • Approximately 85% of frontline managers surveyed across retail believe theft and customer violence are growing issues in the industry. 
  • More than two-thirds (70%) of frontline managers claim they or their staff have witnessed an increase in theft within the last year.
  • Nearly half (49%) of frontline managers say they or their staff have seen an increase in theft and customer violence in the past 30 days alone. 
  • More than a third (38%) of frontline managers report their store has been victim to petty theft or shoplifting.

Outside of individual customer theft and violence, retailers are also experiencing an increase in organized retail crime (ORC) as well as theft from regular and seasonal workers, despite enforcing zero-tolerance policies

  • Almost half (41%) of frontline managers surveyed report their store has fallen victim to organized crime.
  • Approximately 45% of frontline managers report workers have been caught stealing items from the store.
  • Approximately 77% of frontline managers in retail report their company has a zero-tolerance policy for theft, meaning if an employee steals they are fired or let go. 
  • More than half (52%) of retail frontline managers say they’ve formed new theft policies and prevention loss methods to ensure newly hired seasonal workers do not steal.
  • However, 37% of frontline managers are concerned that new seasonal workers could steal from their store, and 22% report seasonal workers have already stolen. 

… And all of this is taking a toll on frontline workers, which in turn puts a strain on managers

  • Nearly half (47%) of frontline managers report workers have quit due to concerns around safety.

To combat this growing trend, retailers are implementing new preventative operational policies and procedures, many of which impact the customer experience  

  • 61% of frontline managers report locking down more products in the store to prevent theft.
  • 42% of frontline managers report closing down their store or certain locations due to an increase in theft / customer violence.
  • More than half (60%) of frontline managers have created an anonymous tip line resource for workers and the public to report issues of theft in their store.
  • 43% of frontline managers report that more customers are requesting assistance to their vehicles after shopping, through employee escorts or store security escorts. 
  • 40% of frontline managers claim they’ve boarded up windows, doors or areas of access to prevent theft / customer violence.
  • More than half (54%) of frontline managers have hired outside security to protect their store / workers.
  • 43% of frontline managers report modifying store hours to only operate within a certain time frame.
  • Approximately 63% of frontline managers have worked with law enforcement to track or solve some of the issues of theft.

Despite the urgency of growing theft instances, managers remain confident in their staff’s ability to handle and report instances of theft, because they are prioritizing training

  • More than half (66%) of frontline managers report increasing employee training this year around handling instances of theft and customer violence. 
  • More than half (64%) of frontline managers surveyed believe their staff is capable of properly handling and reporting instances of theft today. 

Axonify surveyed 300 retail frontline managers above the age of 18 in the U.S. using the online insights platform Pollfish. This survey was completed the week of October 16, 2023.

Richia McCutcheon

As Senior Brand Marketing Manager, Richia McCutcheon spends her time sharing Axonify's story in the market and learning about what frontlines need to thrive.