Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Published

September 22, 2022

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Over half (56%) of small retail businesses say they have experienced theft from their stores in the past year, according to new data released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In addition, half of them say the issue has gotten worse over the past year.

“Retail theft is not a victimless crime, and its increasing prevalence means greater danger for store employees and higher costs for law-abiding Americans,” said Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Store owners are not only confronted with traditional shoplifting, but increasingly with highly organized criminal gangs who seek to profit by taking advantage of gaps in the law. To better protect businesses, employees, and customers from falling victim to organized retail theft, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to make changes, including passing legislation to stop the sale of stolen goods on online marketplaces, updating the definition of organized retail crime, and increasing criminal penalties, and prosecuting these criminals for their actions.”

Retail theft impacts everyone since customers are being forced to pay higher prices to cover the cost of theft. Almost half (46%) of small retailers have been forced to increase their prices over the past year as a result of shoplifting. And end of year holidays provide no relief. In fact, 53% of small retailers say that their businesses experience more shoplifting or theft during the holiday season. So much for holiday spirit!

Retail theft a challenge for all small businesses

Retail is not the only sector facing the impact of increasing theft. Small businesses in all sectors are having to respond to this worrying trend and some say it’s growing worse.

Overall, nearly four in ten (37%) small businesses report experiencing shoplifting or theft in the past year, with 14% indicating they experience it monthly or more often. Roughly a third say shoplifting or theft increases during the holiday season (34%) and that they have experienced more theft during the past year than in previous years (33%). In response, 36% say they have enhanced security measures in the past year to combat shoplifting or theft.

The other sector, after retail, most impacted by theft is professional services (consulting, financial services, insurance, etc.). According to the survey, 45% of small professional businesses say they have experienced shoplifting or theft in the past year and 42% of them say their business has experienced more theft in the past year.

The U.S. Chamber advocates for retail theft solutions

To combat rising retail theft, the U.S. Chamber has urged Congress to pass legislation to provide more transparency in online marketplaces by requiring sellers of large quantities of goods to provide basic, “know your seller” information. The U.S. Chamber has also urged state and local governments to prosecute these theft rings and enact policy changes that would help law enforcement and prosecutors arrest and prosecute these criminals. 

The survey questions were asked as part of the Q3 2022 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, an online survey of 750 small business owners across the country. Retail was one of four sectors represented in the survey. See the rest of the Q3 survey findings here.  

The following chart includes relevant data on retail theft from the survey:

SBI Q3 Retail Data

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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