Increase In Shoplifting May Be Sign Of Economic Recovery

While one might initially expect an increase in shoplifting to be a sign that more people are facing dire financial straits, there are those who believe the recent uptick in retail theft could actually be a hint that the economy is improving.

The National Retail Federation recently announced that losses from retail theft totaled $37.1 billion in 2010, up from $33.5 billion in 2009. How could this increase hint at good things to come?

Well, a good chunk of retail theft is done by employees — like the Office Depot manager accused of stealing millions of dollars in supplies — and when the economy bottomed out a few years back, many retail workers put a priority on keeping their jobs over their unofficial five-finger employee discounts.

“They were so worried about their future, their families and paying the mortgage, they realized this is what is keeping their family afloat,” says the author of the NRF’s annual security study. But as these same people feel more secure in their gigs, some believe they are more apt to take advantage of their employers.

There is another possible reason for the uptick that isn’t necessarily a sign of good things to come. With many retailers cutting staff during these down years, remaining employees have had to take on extra hours and responsibilities.

“When those inequities build up, rationalizing theft is fairly common,” said the study’s author, who added that can be “very tempting” for staffers to shoplift under these circumstances, “especially if they feel that the company can afford it and they’re being paid minimum wage.”

That latest sign of an economic recovery: Shoplifting is back [Chicago Tribune]