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Retailers lobby Congress to pass Combating Organized Retail Crime Act


Retailers push lawmakers to pass legislation to help fight theft

Representatives from more than 30 retailers joined a major industry lobbying group on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as they ramped up pressure to pass a law that backers say will curb retail theft.

The National Retail Federation escalated its campaign to rally support for the bill, known as the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act, which would make it easier to prosecute theft as a federal felony and set up a system for governments to share resources on crime. The retail lobby group dubbed its event “Fight Retail Crime Day.”

Before holding individual meetings with retail officials, the bill’s co-sponsors joined NRF CEO Matthew Shay in a press conference outside the Capitol — where they framed the legislation as critical to retailers’ bottom lines and their employees’ safety.

“You also have to recognize, this is not just the theft, but the danger to the employees, the cost to the consumers, and then the impact upon the individual retailer,” one of the bill’s co-sponsors Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a press conference. “[Organized retail crime] has to be dealt with in a comprehensive way. And that’s what our legislation is all about.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, speaking at a press conference for the lobby group’s “Fight Retail Crime Day.”

Courtney Reagan | CNBC

Organized retail crime is different from shoplifting. The NRF defines it as “the large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell the items for financial gain.” It usually involves multiple people who steal large amounts of goods from a range of stores, which a so-called fencing operation then sells, according to the group.

The NRF and individual retailers have spoken more than ever in recent months about how retail crime affects their profits, their employees and their customers. Target even cited the trend as it announced it would close nine stores.

Despite those comments, a survey released by the NRF last month found retailers’ losses from theft are largely in line with historical trends, but most respondents reported violence associated with the acts is getting worse. Much of companies’ lost inventory can also come from internal theft or management issues, as William Blair analysts wrote in a research note Thursday.

Even so, the industry has pushed for federal and state laws that aim to crack down on crime. Retailers continued their campaign for policy changes in Washington on Thursday.

The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act was reintroduced earlier this year. It seeks to create a new multi-agency group under the Department of Homeland Security that would pool information and intelligence from many states and local law enforcement sources. Officials want to better detect, track and prosecute members of organized crime rings with new federal standards. 

American Eagle Outfitters chief global asset protection officer Scott McBride, who is meeting with lawmakers to rally support for the law, pointed to the collaboration as a major benefit of the proposal.

“That’s one of the…



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