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Target lowers bar for workers to stop thefts to as little as $50

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Target is lowering the bar to stop shoplifters, taking a tougher approach to further curb store theft that has weighed on operations.  

Store staff can now seek to halt incidents of theft worth at least $50, lower than the previous threshold of $100, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing private company policy. The new guideline is expected to be enforced this summer, they said.

The change in guidance marks one of the latest steps Target is taking to tackle theft. The retailer, which operates nearly 2,000 stores, has said that shrink — inventory loss due to theft, damage and other factors — has squeezed its profit margins in recent quarters. The company expects such losses to plateau this year, however.

A Target spokesman said the company is making meaningful progress to address theft through actions in stores and efforts from policymakers and various communities.

“Our priority remains ensuring the safety of the team and guests, while maintaining the positive experience Target shoppers expect,” he said.

Thresholds vary by retailers that have their own policies for apprehending or prosecuting shoplifters. They range widely and are estimated to be from $25 to $100, said Brand Elverston, an industry consultant and a former director of asset protection at Walmart. Store staff typically stops theft that’s not violent, and dollar value is irrelevant in life-threatening situations.

There are limitations to the effectiveness of such thresholds. Employees are not expected to use physical force to stop theft for safety reasons. Various factors determine if and when law enforcement officials respond, including agency capacity, Elverston said. Limits for prosecuting shoplifting are high in some states — California has decriminalized theft under the value of $950 — which some critics say have fueled organized retail crime.

Retailers have been combating rising theft by hiring security guards, putting up more cameras and making changes to self-checkout registers. Items that can be sold online have been targets of shoplifting, denting sales and profits of operators. For every item that gets stolen, retailers lose what consumers would have paid in addition to how much they spent to stock the product.

Target said last year that it would close nine stores in four states to stem losses from rising theft. The company has spent recent years locking up products that get stolen often such as laundry detergent and nail-care items such as fake nails. The company is adding new technology to self-checkout stations to combat theft, Bloomberg News previously reported.

Jaewon Kang, Bloomberg , 2024-07-01 10:03:05

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