Retail theft is nothing new; however, a new report from the National Retail Federations shows that retail crime accounted for over $112 billion in industry losses in 2022, up from $93.9 billion in 2021. As a result of retail theft, brands have closed stores to protect the safety of their customers and employees, and others have made in-store changes, such as locking up items like razors, body care products, technology devices, and alcohol behind clear cases.

At the same time, some reports call into question whether retail theft is a growing issue or if levels have remained consistent over the years. Instead, they’re suggesting the violence associated with retail thefts has increased, creating heightened safety concerns for shoppers and employees.

Regardless of whether retail theft is up or not, consumers are expressing significant concerns about crime and violence in their community in general. Ongoing CivicScience tracking shows that as of October 3, an overwhelming 76% of U.S. adults are either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about crime and violence in their area. The percentage of those ‘somewhat concerned’ has reached peak levels in the last 365 days (44%) and stands two percentage points higher than in October 2022. Those ‘very concerned’ about crime and violence in their area is down from this time last year, but still a significant number of respondents are expressing severe concerns (32%). 

Concerns about crime and violence likely influence whether consumers shop in-store or not, and increased safety measures could make shoppers feel more comfortable.

Forty-eight percent of Americans notice stores taking retail theft precautions.

According to new CivicScience data, 48% of polled respondents say they’ve noticed stores increasing security measures, reducing hours, or making other changes due to retail theft (n=3,147). A slightly higher percentage have noticed this at multiple stores (25%) compared to a couple of stores (23%). Conversely, 40% haven’t noticed any recent changes in stores, and notably, 11% say they haven’t been shopping at stores.

In particular, 58% of Americans living in a city report they’ve noticed changes in the stores they shop in due to retail theft, far outpacing the same figure among those living in rural and suburban areas. Consequently, city-dwellers are most likely to say they haven’t been shopping in stores (13%). Whereas those living in rural areas are the most likely to report they haven’t noticed any in-store safety measures.

How is retail theft affecting shopping habits?

Among those who shop in-store and have noticed retail theft, 38% say they’ve either been shopping in-person less frequently (24%) or started shopping at a different store altogether (14%). Another 9% haven’t recently changed their shopping habits but plan to. However, the majority of consumers say they won’t adjust their shopping habits (53%) due to retail theft.

A similar story holds when looking at the data by the type of area consumers live in. Forty-six percent of those living in a city have changed how they shop, with a whopping 31% reporting they’re shopping in-store less frequently. Suburban and rural Americans are equally likely to say they haven’t changed their shopping habits and don’t plan to.

Retail theft concerns could lead to more consumers shopping online – a trend arising this holiday season. Among those who usually shop in-store, 25% of those who’ve noticed retail theft claim they’ve been shopping online ‘much’ or ‘somewhat’ more than they usually do this time of year (excluding grocery shopping) – more than doubling the percentage of those who haven’t noticed retail theft and are shopping online more than usual (11%). At the same time, both groups are nearly equally likely to say they’ve been shopping online ‘somewhat’ or ‘much’ less than they usually do this time of year (19%-20%). 

Overall, retail theft could cause significant changes in shopping habits among consumers. If you’d like to see how your consumers respond, meet with us – we’re tracking over 300 brands in the CivicScience InsightStore.