Half of retail and grocery workers have seen a recent theft or attempted theft

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Half of retail and grocery workers witnessed a theft or attempted theft in their stores from October 2022 through mid-April 2023, according to research from learning provider Axonify.

The research surveyed 1,000 workers in the retail and grocery sector and spanned both small businesses and major retail chains.

Retail and grocery associates are also seeing “a notable increase” in hostile and violent situations, according to Axonify. A third of stores experienced violent situations involving customers, respondents said. “Associates are already seeing the recession impact consumers in a number of ways, from haggling and more disputes with staff or other customers to theft and violence,” Axonify said in a statement.

See Now: Retailers say theft cost nearly $100 billion last year. But are stores using crime stats to cover up other problems?

Over 20% of the respondents to Axonify’s survey don’t feel prepared to handle situations involving theft and 40% said they feel scared to go to work. Over a quarter of the workers surveyed said they have ignored a theft or attempted theft.

A number of big-name retailers are struggling with inventory “shrink” caused by theft and organized retail crime. The issue was cited by Target Corp.
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+1.57%

when it reported its first-quarter results last week. Walmart Inc. 
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+0.96%

also described the issue as “challenging” during a conference call to discuss its first-quarter results.

Related: Target battling inventory ‘shrink’ caused by theft and organized retail crime, says CEO

Last week BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings Inc.
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-0.21%

CEO Bob Eddy also weighed in on the issue. “Organized retail crime is definitely a thing,” he said, during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter results. “We see it, and it is material,” he added.

Last year the National Retail Federation reported that retail industry shrink was $94.5 billion in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020 — primarily driven by external theft, including organized retail crime. The NRF’s National Retail Security Survey, which was conducted with the Loss Prevention Research Council, found that retailers, on average, saw a 26.5% increase in organized retail crime incidents in 2021. Eight in 10 retailers surveyed also reported that the violence and aggression associated with organized retail crime incidents increased.

Additional reporting by Greg Robb.

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