One grocery chain is fighting hard to keep stores open despite rampant shoplifting and an uptick in violence forcing many retailers to leave major cities across the country.
Giant Food, which operates 165 supermarkets in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, has taken multiple measures to combat theft and keep stores safe, according to a report in The Washington Post. That includes limiting store entrances; hiring security guards; restricting the number of items at self-checkout stands; putting less high-value items on shelves; and securing razor blades in containers that make noise if opened.
Company president Ira Kress said he’s seen theft rise at least “tenfold in the last five years” and violence increase “exponentially.”
He hopes these measures will help keep stores open, even if they inconvenience shoppers. “The alternative is worse for customers,” he told the Post. “The last thing I want to do is close stores. But I’ve got to be able to run them safely and profitably.”
Several large retailers like Walgreens, Nordstrom and Whole Foods have had to close stores in cities due to increased shoplifting and safety concerns.
Fears of violent reactions from shoplifters has also changed some companies policies over the years. “We used to chase shoplifters,” Kress said. “And you’d get the product back, and nobody would ever fight you. … I didn’t worry about somebody pulling a knife or gun on me  years ago,” he told the Post.
A former worker at the recently closed Whole Foods in Downtown San Francisco also said in the report that they had taken measures to combat shoplifting, like moving high-end merchandise to the back of the store.
However, the high-end grocery chain has temporarily closed the flagship store due to safety concerns. Records showed over 500 emergency phone calls were made by workers at the store, who were routinely threatened with violence by vagrants.
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A consumer and retailer industry expert said that retailers will continue to leave cities as it has become difficult for them to maintain a profit with organized retail crime and theft at an all-time high.
“We’re seeing the highest level of organized retail crime and theft ever,” Lakshman Lakshmanan, senior director in Alvarez & Marsal’s consumer and retail group said in the Post report.
The former Whole Foods employee said the store faced theft “daily” and employees were forbidden from confronting or attempting to stop shoplifters.
Other retailers have similar policies in place, due to fears the employee might be harmed or killed in an altercation with a shoplifter.
In Atlanta, Georgia, two LuLuLemon employees were fired by the company after they filmed shoplifters brazenly stealing merchandise.
Keeping stores open has become even harder during this era of inflation, Lakshmanan said, as retailers have to find ways to stay afloat with increased rent, operations and wages.
Giant’s president said it’s “embarrassing” when politicians attack retailers for shutting stores due to these challenges.
“It’s laughable for any of our politicians — and I’ve offered to meet and talk with any of them — to be ignorant to what’s going on in their communities, in their jurisdictions, with their constituents,” Kress said in the report. “And for politicians to blame businesses … for leaving is embarrassing.”
Source: Fox News
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