U.S. retailers lose more inventory from employee theft than from other
shoplifters and it’s now the largest form of property theft in
the country. That’s according to a University of Florida (UF)
survey of 118 stores.
The retailers cited total inventory loses of $53.6 billion a year.
Of these loses, 48 percent are due to employee theft, 32 percent to
shoplifting. Who pays for the theft? Customers. The survey showed
the average family of four pays more than $400 a year in higher prices
as stores pass on their losses.
Richard Hollinger, director of the National Retail Security Survey
and a sociology profession at UF, said retail theft outranks the combination
of motor vehicle theft, bank robbery and household burglary.
New Federal Reserve records report U.S. consumer debt reached $1.98
trillion dollars in October 2003—or about $18,700 per household.
These debt levels include car loans and credit cards, but not mortgages.
U.S. credit card debt alone totals $735 billion or $7,000 per household.
The Associated Press quotes Joel Greenber, CEO of Novadebt, a New
Jersey-based nonprofit credit counseling service, as saying: “We’ve
become phenomenal consumers, and deplorable savers.”
AP also quotes Wells Fargo & Co. economist Sung Won Sohn as saying:
“In the long run, it’s a ticking time bomb. At some point
when you get a sharp setback in the economy or a spike in interest
rates, the high debt causes instability.”
RETAIL SALES EXPECTED TO RISE
Not all the news is bad, however. The National Retail Federation in
early January said it sees increased household income and low inflation
driving U.S. retail sales up by five percent in 2004—just a bit
better than last year’s 4.3 percent increase.
Reasons for the growth include:
• more balance economic growth
• solid consumer spending
• accelerated business investment
The report refers to the sales of general merchandise, apparel, furniture,
electronics and other retail items. Also noted, luxury stores performed
better than lower-priced chains.