According to recent reports, retailers are rethinking self-checkout systems amid a spike in costly retail theft. As shoplifting becomes more prevalent, companies are reporting significant impacts on their financial performance. Simultaneously, retailers face an unprecedented labor shortage, making the situation even more challenging.
Self-checkout stations sounded like a sound business decision on paper, offering benefits such as a faster checkout experience for the consumer while reducing labor costs for the business. For retail employees, the advent of this technology also liberated them from menial, repetitive tasks.
The problem of theft arises since there is an obvious lack of oversight over consumers scanning their items properly. A lack of enforced accountability creates rampant opportunities for shoplifting. Subsequently, major retailers like Target and Walmart have been brainstorming solutions to overcome the issue of theft, such as internal checks within the self-checkout machines and employee protocol. Some stores have been scaling back self-checkout altogether as a means of loss prevention.
Retail companies have released many statements addressing the troubling trend of rampant retail theft. Head of Loss Prevention at Home Depot, Scott Glenn, recently spoke before a congressional panel, illustrating how problematic shoplifting has become.
The executive noted that instances of retail theft are often being perpetrated by violent criminals who are putting other’s safety at risk. “These individuals are becoming increasingly aggressive, they are dangerous, and often care little about any consequence other than getting out of the store with as much as possible.”
“I want to be very clear that we’re not talking about petty shoplifting. We’re talking about theft for greed, not theft for need,” Glenn added, illustrating the nature of the observed criminal behavior. The executive also stated the trend in crime is not isolated to big cities but is much more pervasive. “There’s the myth that [organized retail crime] rings happen only in big cities. Unfortunately criminals don’t discriminate.”
The American Tribune reported on a statement from retail giant Target earlier this year, outlining the company’s change in strategy as their businesses are impacted by retail crime. Target announced that it would be closing various stores across the nation.
Per Target’s announcement, “At Target, we take the decision to close stores very seriously, and only do so after taking meaningful steps to invest in the guest experience and improve business performance. With that said, we have made the difficult decision to close nine Target stores across four states, effective Oct. 21.”
The corporation explained that these stores’ operating conditions are “unsustainable” and not conducive to profitability or a safe shopping environment. “In this case, we cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance. We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all.”
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