(Reuters) - Organized crime rings in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston are targeting retail inventories, causing more financial loss, according to a report by the National Retail Federation (NRF), a trade group representing U.S. retailers.
Big-box retailers such as Target and Kroger as well as dollar stores have sounded caution over increasing inventory theft and organized retail crime that could worsen this year's headwinds from weakening consumer demand.
In 2022, inventory "shrink" as a percentage of total retail sales accounted for $112.1 billion in losses, up from $93.9 billion in 2021, according to the NRF report on Tuesday.
"Retailers are seeing unprecedented levels of theft coupled with rampant crime in their stores, and the situation is only becoming more dire," said NRF Vice President for Asset Protection and Retail Operations David Johnston.
Retailers are either being forced to close a specific store location, reduce operating hours or alter in-store product selection to deal with the spike in retail crime, the report added.
Dollar Tree has said it plans to remove goods like men's underwear, an item most prone to retail theft, from its stores.
Retailers are ramping up prevention methods with 34% of respondents increasing internal payroll to support risks related to retail crime and 46% increasing the use of third-party security personnel among other methods, according to NRF.
Even Britain is seeing more instances of shoplifting with the fashion chain Primark stepping up spending on security guards, CCTV and equipping staff with body cameras to try and combat in-store theft.
Walmart CFO John Rainey on a post-earnings call with Telsey Advisory Group said the retailer was "putting armed guards in certain cases" in some stores located in cities.
The NRF survey was conducted online among senior loss prevention and security executives in the retail industry with insights from 177 retail brands.
(Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru and Siddharth Cavale in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)