Crime and Safety

Ex-CEO sounds alarm about retail theft: ‘Spreading faster than COVID’

As big-name retailers like Walmart and Home Depot warn of rising retail thefts this holiday season, two experts are predicting the surge “only escalates from here” into an “epidemic.”

“Today, this thing is an epidemic. It’s spreading faster than COVID,” former chairman and CEO of Chrysler and Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday. “The degree of severity now, it’s not just theft, it’s smash and grab. There’s an entitlement out there that if you have it, you’ve worked hard to earn it. I want it. I’m just going to take it.”

“It’s not so much the numbers, although the numbers are alarming, it’s the manner in which this is going on and the implications for each community and each store that this happens in,” business analyst and 7 Stage Advisors President Carl Gould had noted on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” Wednesday.

“That’s where the major problem is, because this type of crime emboldens other types of crime, and it only escalates from here.”

During an appearance on CNBC Tuesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said theft is “higher than what it has historically been.” He explained Walmart has safety and security measures “that we’ve put in place by store location” to help combat the issue.

“I think local law enforcement being staffed, and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it,” McMillon added.

Former Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli
“The degree of severity now, it’s not just theft, it’s smash and grab,” says former Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli.
Getty Images

Walmart joins the growing list of retailers feeling the wrath of raging theft and crime across the nation ahead of the holiday shopping season. Drugstore companies like Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens have publicly cited shoplifting concerns, as well as retailers such as Kroger, Target and Best Buy.

The Home Depot also recently expressed it was “outraged” when an elderly worker died after being shoved during a store theft in North Carolina this fall.

While former Home Depot CEO Nardelli called the tragedy “very, very unfortunate” and “sad,” he put the onus on the Biden administration to get a hold on rising crime.

“Now it has elevated to the point where you’ve got Doug McMillon talking about impacting earnings. And this is another silent contributor to inflation,” Nardelli said. “Our associates are afraid. The retail salespeople are afraid. Consumers are afraid. We’ve got to get control of this. And if the administration doesn’t get control of this, they’re abdicating it to the businesses, both public and private.”

An 83-year-old North Carolina Home Depot employee succumbed to his injuries after being shoved to the ground by a shoplifter in October.
An 83-year-old North Carolina Home Depot employee succumbed to his injuries after being shoved to the ground by a shoplifter in October.
Hillsborough Police Department
The suspect knocking the 83-year-old to the ground.
The suspect knocking 83-year-old Gary Rasor to the ground.
Hillsborough Police Department
Gary Rasor was rushed to a local hospital, where  he died more than 6 weeks later.
Gary Rasor was rushed to a local hospital, where he died more than 6 weeks later.
Hillsborough Police Department

In mid-September, the National Retail Federation found total losses from shrink, a term retailers use for theft and other types of inventory loss, increased to $94.5 billion in 2021. Organized retail crime incidents soared 26.5% on average in the same year, according to the 2022 National Retail Security Survey.

Gould pointed out that “most” of big retailers’ shrinkage can be attributed to an “inside job from the employees,” but outside theft driven by “opportunity” is forcing stores to showcase a high security presence.

One Philadelphia gas station owner told FOX Business’ Jeff Flock Thursday that he hired an armed guard to keep watch for crime.

“We are tired from all this nonsense: robbery, drug trafficking, [racketeering], all kinds of [crime],” Neil Patel said. “I am fearful for my safety, my employee, as well as my nice neighborhood. All customer[s].”

“It’s unbelievable what’s happening and what we’re allowing to happen,” Nardelli reacted. “Again, unfortunately, the abdication is put in the hands of corporations like Walmart, Target and the gas stations, for example, that have to take control and protect their property and their employees.”

Last year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the root cause of the spike in organized retail crime was the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the Biden administration was working with a number of communities across the nation to “crack down” on crime in those neighborhoods.

But neither Nardelli nor Gould argued that the crime crisis has improved since then.

“It used to be somebody would take a candy bar, there maybe was damage as a result of shipment, there was misplaced inventory,” Nardelli detailed. “But now, it’s just blatant robbery. It’s just blatant robbery. It isn’t the small incidents that take place.”

FOX Business’ Aislinn Murphy and Daniella Genovese contributed to this report.

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