Retail

Customers Are Stealing From Walmart

Walmart has a shoplifting problem that has grown so much that management may start to close some stores. CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC that the world’s largest retailer also could raise prices to offset the dent that shoplifting leaves in sales. No matter how sophisticated new systems to detect in-store theft are, people who want to steal have been able to dodge them.

McMillon told the cable news network that “Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been.” While he could not put the finger on the reasons, it costs $400 million a year in lost sales. A partial solution is that Walmart works hand in glove with police forces in areas where it has stores.

Based on Walmart’s financial statements, the theft problem threatens Walmart’s bottom line. Last quarter Walmart had global revenue of $153 billion, on which it made $2.1 billion. The $400 million loss to theft is not trivial.

Retailers have special employee training programs, sophisticated camera systems and store layouts created to deter theft. They are also shown how to look for “suspicious” behavior and keep particularly vigilant during some times of the day. They are also shown ways to monitor store entrances and exits.


Store employees have trouble catching shoplifters because some are professional and have been taught how to practice their trade. Some of these work in groups. They have systems to sell stolen products that makes shoplifting profitable.

Equally difficult to combat is that the thieves are often employees. They may even steal as products are unloaded and distributed in the stores.

The problem extends to most retailers. Walmart receives more visibility in light of its size.

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