Case Values Soar – 31st Annual Retail Theft Survey

Theft case values soared in 2018 with the average shoplifting case value ($301.97) increasing 11.8%; the average dishonest employee case value ($1,361.37) increasing an amazing 30.1%; and the total average theft case value ($408.77) up 17.0%! While the retailers participating in this survey did not apprehend as many thieves as they did the previous year, they were recovering more dollars from the thieves they did apprehend. With the increase in dollar recoveries, retail theft overall continues to be a serious problem for retailers negatively impacting their bottom-line, which results in higher prices to consumers.

Highlights from this highly anticipated annual theft survey include:

Participants: 20 large retail companies with 13,674 stores and over $330 billion in retail sales (2018).

Shrink: 55% of survey participants reported an increase in shrink in 2018, with 35% reporting a decrease in shrink, and 10% reported shrink stayed about the same.


  • Total: 279,196 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2018, down 11.8% from 2017.
  • Shoplifters: Survey participants apprehended 251,051 shoplifters in 2018, a decrease of 11.7% from the prior year.
  • Employee Theft: Survey participants apprehended 28,145 dishonest employees in 2018, down 12.7% from 2017.

Recovery Dollars

  • Total: Over $114 million was recovered from apprehended shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2018, up 3.2% from 2017.
  • Shoplifting: Dollars recovered from shoplifting apprehensions totaled over $75.8 million in 2018, a slight decrease of 1.4% from 2017.
  • Shoplifting (no apprehension): Dollars recovered from shoplifters where no apprehension was made (over $126 million) decreased 1.4% in 2018. This was the first decrease in over 20 years.
  • Employee Theft: Dollars recovered from dishonest employee apprehensions totaled over $38 million in 2018, up a substantial 13.5% from 2017.

Average Case Value

  • Total: The average total theft case value in 2018 was $408.77, a considerable increase of 17.0% over 2017’s case value ($349.28).
  • Shoplifting: The average shoplifting case value in 2018 was $301.97, reflecting a substantial increase (11.8%) from 2017 ($270.20).
  • Employee Theft: The average dishonest employee case value in 2018 was $1,361.37, an amazing increase of 30.1% from 2017’s average case value ($1,046.72).

Survey participants noted the following reasons as to why their Shoplifting apprehensions and recovery dollars increased or decreased in 2018:


  • Increased focus on the issue of shoplifting
  • More ORC (Organized Retail Crime) activity
  • Increase in the number of low to mid-level shoplifters
  • Felony thresholds being raised/increased in various states
  • Less associates on the sales floor creating more opportunities for shoplifters


  • Less LP/AP staff due to restructuring or transition
  • More preventative measures in place (ie. Public View Monitors, Greeters, etc.)
  • Better display standards/product protection
  • Less attention to shoplifting and more toward systemic shrink issues
  • Increased focus on prevention, instead of apprehension

Survey participants noted the following reasons as to why their Employee Theft apprehensions and recovery dollars increased or decreased in 2018:


  • Improved exception-based reporting software resulted in more DE cases
  • Low unemployment rate, reduced applicant pool (hiring fewer quality employees)
  • More merchandise credit card and loyalty card frauds
  • Less associates in store creates more opportunities for dishonest employees


  • Less LP/AP staff due to restructuring or transition
  • Less focus on apprehensions and more focus on shrink creating processes
  • More associate training and focus on prevention
  • Less associates resulted in less employee cases

Here are a few actions retailers should take to reduce their vulnerability to losses: 

Shoplifting Prevention Tips

  • Use a Greeter: Position an associate at the store entrance(s) to greet all customers     and offer assistance.
  • Provide good customer service: Shoplifters want and need privacy; so take it away from them.  When they respond “I’m just looking”, teach associates to say “Ok great, I’ll keep my eye on you in case you need any assistance”.  Honest customers are ok with this, and this is the last thing a shoplifter wants to hear.
  • Have associates walk the sales floor: Keep visible, and keep displays neat and organized (so missing items can be more easily noticed).
  • Have good sight lines on the sales floor: Do not block the view of high value and highly popular items, and keep these items in sight of associate work areas.
  • Hire honest and motivated associates: Train them to prevent shoplifting (what to look for, how to respond to a possible shoplifter, etc.).
  • Use technology: Remember, technology (EAS: electronic article surveillance, CCTV, merchandise alarms, ink/dye tags, product tie-downs, Keeper boxes, etc.) must be managed. Also ensure policies/procedures regarding technology are adhered to: EAS tagging 98% or higher, items required to be alarmed or tied-down are done so, etc.
  • Know your merchandise: Especially highly popular items, high value items, what’s stolen most often and what’s easily stolen. Study why these items are taken, evaluate their locations and packaging – then make changes as needed.
  • Limit item quantity on sales floor: Limit the number of certain items (high value, highly pilferable) placed on the sales floor. This will reduce vulnerability to large losses of these items and make it easier to identify missing items.
  • Prosecute shoplifters: Thieves know which retailers prosecute and those that do not. Prosecution can be a good deterrent.

Employee Theft Prevention Tips

  • Effective Pre-Employment Screening Process: The first step to controlling employee theft starts at the point-of-hire; do not hire the “bad apple”. A thorough pre-employment screening process including, reference checks, “honesty/integrity testing”, SSN trace/verification, criminal background checks, and drug testing is most important. Money spent up-front in the screening process to identify ‘quality’ associates will result in savings from reduced turnover and losses.
  • POS Exception Monitoring: Use a POS exception-based monitoring program to quickly identify possible fraudulent transactions at the point of sale (ie. excessive refunds (cash or credit); refunds or voids before or after store hours; too many voids, excessive reward credits, dummy SKU usage, etc.).
  • Auditing for Compliance: Ensure consistent compliance to company policies and procedures by conducting unannounced loss prevention/shrink audits on a regular basis. Auditing not only helps keep awareness high, but by reducing the opportunity, you reduce the chance of theft/loss.
  • Training & Awareness: Invest in loss prevention training and awareness programs for all associates, and a reward program for associates who report dishonest activities.
  • “Back to Basics”: Ensure LP “basics” are in place and adhered to at all times:

–  Door controls (OH doors locked and Exit doors alarmed)

– Trash controls (Process supervised, clear bags, cartons flattened, and dumpster  locked)

– Package/bag checks (Conduct whenever an associate exits the location)

– POS controls (2 people witness and verify refunds, voids, price overrides, etc.)

– Sales Verifications (“Pass-outs” are an easy way to steal with friends/relatives;  have management conduct daily unannounced sales verifications)

– Opening and closing (Always with 2 associates – security and safety issue)

The full survey can be viewed and/or downloaded/printed from on our website at:


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