As retailers like Home Depot face rising theft, former CEO Bob Nardelli warns that it has become an “epidemic” that is “spreading faster than COVID.” Nardelli described the theft not only as theft, but also “smash and grab” with a sense of entitlement from the perpetrators. He emphasized the severe impact this type of crime has on the store, community, and associates.
In 2021, total losses from shrink, the term retailers use for theft and other inventory losses, rose to $94.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. The 2022 National Retail Security Survey found that organized retail crime incidents increased by 26.5% on average in the same year. Some of these losses can be attributed to inside jobs from employees, but outside theft driven by “opportunity” is forcing retailers to increase their security presence.
In one case a man was arrested and charged with multiple theft incidents at a Home Depot in Nashville, TN. The suspect was seen on multiple occasions stealing and attempting to steal power tools from the store, including cutting the lock on a locked storage container. He was recognized by store officials and left the stolen tools behind on one occasion, but in another incident, he took more than $1,600 worth of tools. In November, the police asked for public assistance in locating the suspect and he was later arrested with cocaine, methamphetamine and a glass pipe in his possession. He is facing 24 felony and misdemeanor charges and remains in jail on a $265,600 bond.
In Georgia five individuals were arrested for their involvement in a theft ring that resulted in over $300,000 worth of stolen merchandise from Home Depot locations across the country. The suspects were caught by Coweta County deputies after they filled bins with stolen items and used shopping carts to transport the bins to their vehicles. The group was operating with a leader who selected the items to be stolen and the other four individuals committed the theft. The five suspects have been charged with felony shoplifting.
Home Depot has taken measures to reduce theft in their stores by tracking high-risk products and locking them up in areas that have seen the most theft, resulting in customers having to ask an employee for assistance when shopping for certain items. The store has been locking up more of its products over the past year and is testing customer-friendly and higher-tech solutions to stopping shoplifting. However, locking up all valuable products could damage the brand and affect the majority of customers who are just there to purchase items. Home Depot has implemented a technological solution to combat organized theft of its tools. The store has started carrying power tools that can only be activated through Bluetooth activation at the point of sale, as reported by Business Insider. This approach will enable Home Depot to continue selling these products without having to lock them up in cases, thereby preserving the shopping experience for legitimate customers.