MARIETTA - Over the 2012 holiday season retailers will lose an estimated $8.9 billion due to shoplifting, employee theft and vendor and distribution losses-and the average family will pay an extra $98 to make up those losses.
That's according to a study released by the Centre for Retail Research, funded by Checkpoint Systems.
Of the $8.9 billion worth of goods, the largest share for retailers is due to employee theft, about $4.7 billion, followed by general shoplifting, around $3.8 billion.
Phot by Sharon Bopp
A shopper enters Jo Ann Fabrics.
This year's predicted shoplifting estimate is up by 4 percent, when compared to 2011's figure, the study found.
For shoppers, there's a very real trickle-down cost to this staggering amount of loss-or about $98 of a family's total Christmas shopping bill,the study revealed.
That $98 comes as no surprise to Ralph Fankell, 50, of Reno.
"I don't like it but I understand that businesses have to recover their losses," Fankell said.
"People get hard up for money especially this time of year," he added.
Marietta councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward related to that $98 figure from another perspective.
"There are a lot of families in this community that are probably lucky that they spend $98 (total) for Christmas," he said.
Capt. Jeff Waite of the Marietta Police Department said he doesn't doubt that the $98 figure is correct.
"We see a lot of theft in general in this area," said Waite. "(Shoplifters) don't shop low-dollar items. We're talking big screen TVs, tools and equipment."
In some instances, shoplifters put items directly in a shopping cart, or stash them inside a big plastic cart they've also stolen from the store and placed in the cart, then "push them out the front door," Waite said.
There's been no increase in shoplifting in Marietta since Black Friday, reported Waite.
"We've had a pretty much steady amount all year of shoplifting incidents," he said.
The police department does not list thefts according to the type of theft, Waite said.
In 2011, the Marietta Police Department received 311 theft reports, he added. To date in 2012, that number is 350.
To maintain a presence during the Christmas season, uniformed Marietta police officers occasionally walk through area stores.
"They try to spread it out (between small and large retailers) as much as they can, when time allows," said Waite.
Bucky Lee, co-owner of Marietta's Food 4 Less, believes that shoplifting is "not as bad in this area as a lot of places."
"We still get it," he said, adding that his store has a zero tolerance for shoplifters.
"Once they're caught, they're apprehended, no questions asked. We immediately call the city cops," he said.
Increased costs for goods related to shoplifting happen in "any industry," said Lee.
Whether it's a bad check, shoplifting or another type of loss, retailers cannot absorb the cost and have to pass some of the losses on to customers, he added.
That's not always the case at Bridgeport Equipment in Marietta, said sales manager Brandon Neville.
"We do not have a loss percentage figured in when we sell (store product)," he said.
Instead the store's losses are reported on its annual taxes.
However, staffers at Bridgeport Equipment do watch for shoplifting as the holiday season begins.
"We think there's a potential for there to be more shoplifting at Christmastime. With the extra eyeballs we have out on the floor and security cameras, that helps keep that in more check," said Neville.
At Bridgeport Equipment, the most frequently shoplifted items are toys and "small items that can be shoved into somebody's pocket," he added.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said there are a variety of shoplifting scams in the area.
For example, in one scam the shoplifter stops a customer in a parking lot who has purchased a high-dollar item like a big screen TV.
Offering to pay $10 to $15 for a shopper's receipt, the shoplifter "buys" the same item.
"They'll walk out of the store (with the TV) because they've already got a receipt," said Mincks.