Tired of the rise in thefts and shoplifting, small business owners take action

They are cheeky, aggressive and seemingly carefree in the world.

Store thieves damage major retailers and chain stores and even force some places in New York City and San Francisco to close. But unlike many large retailers that can absorb the loss, some small business owners say the crime wave is devastating to their business, especially now that many are still recovering from a global pandemic.

“[When] you see… several thousand dollars just walk out the door – there really are no words you can put on a situation like that. It’s just hard. It’s very, very difficult, “said small business owner Derek Friedman.

Small Business Owner Derek Friedman


Friedman, who owns two retail chains in Colorado and Texas – Sportsfan and Sock Em ‘Sock Emporium – said four out of his 10 stores in the Denver area have seen a significant increase in theft since mid-2019, with losses of in all more than $ 200,000 in less than three years.—

I did not even turn around [some claims] into insurance because we wanted [been dropped] – and a small business can not afford to operate without insurance.

Derek Friedman

Denver-based small business owner

“Our average loss on theft before the start of the increase in 2019 was $ 2,000- $ 3,000 a month,” Friedman said. Since then, the retail value of stolen items has “averaged about $ 8,000 a month,” he said.

Exterior of Sportsfan store in Denver, Colorado


“We had to postpone wage increases … [and] “For almost two years, I took no income and just lived off retirement while we tried to crawl out of Covid and try to recover from all the losses from the cheeky theft,” Friedman said.

He is not alone. According to a recent survey among 700 small business owners from Business.org, 54% reported an increase in shoplifting last year, with one in four saying they deal with the problem on a weekly basis.

In a surveillance video that Friedman shared with CNBC, a store thief picks up a sweater and hat, then threatens employees with a 2-foot-long machete and walks out of the store with stolen goods. Friedman said he reported the incident to police, but as far as he knows, no one was apprehended.

Friedman said he was on the verge of losing his insurance because of the number of incidents his companies were exposed to.

“I did not even turn around [some claims] into insurance because we wanted [been dropped] – and a small business can not afford to operate without insurance, “he said.

Last week, Friedman implemented a 1% crime charge to help offset his losses at four of his hardest-hit stores in Denver, which will be added to all transactions indefinitely. And that may be just the starting point.

“Hopefully we don’t have to raise it,” he said. “I understood that [shoplifting was always a part of doing business] when I bought retail stores… but not at this level. We have not signed up for that, and that is not right, and that needs to change. “

I’ve been here for 12 years. This has never been the case – never.

Peter Panayiotou

owner, Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits

Peter Panayiotou, owner of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City, said he is always the first in and the last out. He’s so worried about the increase in theft, he said he can not remember when he last kept free.

Basement 53 Wine & Spirits owner Peter Panayiotou


“I come in before my guys and … I do not leave the store until I close at 10 pm. Why is that? Because I do not want to leave them alone here,” Panayiotou said.

In a surveillance video that the store owner shared with CNBC from last month, a man grabs a bottle of liquor and hurries out the door. Panayiotou chases after him, but the man escapes. That scene, he said, is now unfolding more than ever before.

“[I’ve been] here for 12 years. It’s never been that way – never, “he said, remembering a man who came into the store every day to iron two bottles of Jack Daniels off the shelf.

Exterior of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City


Panayiotou said he puts his most expensive wine bottles on the zippered shelves he bought on Amazon. Meanwhile, he also acts double duty as security. And when he catches sight of a thief, he immediately locks the door.

“I say to them, ‘put it back – it’s not worth it.’ “If they put it back and they go, it’s fine. If they do not, I will lock the door until I take back what they got from me.” said Panayiotou. “I can no longer trust the police. I just have to protect my business.”

According to Jason Straczewski, National Retail Federation’s Vice President of Government and Political Affairs, law enforcement is highly unlikely to go after them if someone enters a store and steals below that state’s federal theft limit unless it’s part of a frequent event. or it is a group that law enforcement tracks.

“Several states are looking at ways to collect more crimes, so when a person crosses the line of criminal theft, it will also be easier to prosecute that person – or group of individuals -,” Straczewski said.

So many people think you can go out [with a pair of shoes]and do not have to pay for it and you will not be prosecuted.

Caroline Cho

owner, Sneaker City

In Seattle, Caroline Cho’s company, Sneaker City, has been in her family for three decades. But burglary and rude thieves – literally going out with shoes in broad daylight – forced her to change the way customers tried the goods.

Sneaker City owner Caroline Cho


The solution she came up with? Allows customers to try on only one shoe at a time.

“[It was] the only way to protect my furniture, “Cho said.” So many people think you can go out [with a pair of shoes]and do not pay for it, and you will not be prosecuted. “

But her losses gathered anyway. And when her landlord raised her rent, she decided to liquidate her inventory and shut down forever, Cho said.

Exterior of Sneaker City in Seattle, WA


“It’s very bittersweet because you’re saying goodbye to something you grew up with, your family sacrificed a lot to make it grow, and it supported us,” Cho said. “But it’s also a little bit of a relief … because it just became too much.”

Are you a small business owner affected by an increase in shoplifting? If so, we would like to hear from you. Email us at cnbctips@nbcuni.com.

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