Organized retail crime is definitely a thing, says BJ’s CEO: ‘We see it, and it is material’

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The impact of organized retail crime has been a subtheme of earnings season in the retail sector, with BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. CEO Bob Eddy the latest executive to weigh in on the issue.

“Organized retail crime is definitely a thing,” he said, during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter results Tuesday. “We see it, and it is material,” he added.

See: BJ’s Wholesale stock falls toward 4-month low after profit matches expectations but revenue misses

The issue of inventory “shrink” caused by theft and organized retail crime was cited by Target Corp.

when it reported its first-quarter results last week. Walmart Inc.

also described the issue as “challenging” during a conference call to discuss its first-quarter results last week.

BJ Wholesale’s

Eddy explained that he talks to counterparts elsewhere in the retail industry about the problem. “They are definitely seeing it in their businesses,” he said. However, BJ’s Wholesale benefits from its card-based membership system when it comes to tackling theft, according to Eddy. His staff has done “really wonderful work” in keeping track of inventory, keeping shrink as low as possible, and keeping members and employees safe, he said.

But the CEO identified some parts of the U.S. as posing a particular challenge when it comes to shrinkage. “It is a much more pointed problem in certain places, particularly on the West Coast or places like Chicago or Albuquerque that have blue state or local blue governments that don’t really feel like prosecuting crime,” Eddy said. “My view is the government’s first obligation is to provide a safer environment for people to do their daily business and in some places that’s not happening. But politics aside, I think you continue to see this be a problem that the retail industry as a whole needs to work on.”

The central Massachusetts–based BJ’s — which has no stores in Chicago or Albuquerque, nor elsewhere in the states of Illinois or New Mexico, nor in California and other West Coast states, according to its online store-finder tool — declined to provide additional comment when contacted by MarketWatch.

Last year the National Retail Federation reported that retail-industry shrink totaled $94.5 billion in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020 — primarily driven by external theft, including organized retail crime. The NRF’s National Retail Security Survey, which was conducted with the Loss Prevention Research Council, found that retailers, on average, saw a 26.5% increase in organized retail-crime incidents in 2021. Eight in 10 retailers surveyed reported that the violence and aggression associated with organized retail crime incidents had increased.

Like many retailers this earnings season, BJ’s Wholesale cited discretionary-spending pressure when it reported first-quarter results, with Eddy observing that club members are working “to stretch their dollars.”

Related: Target battling inventory ‘shrink’ caused by theft and organized retail crime, says CEO

The CEO added that consumers are being “reticent” when it comes to purchasing big-ticket items. “It’s a very picky consumer out there at this point, from a high-ticket perspective,” he said, citing products such as patio sets and “high dollar” electronics. However, BJ’s noted strength in its grocery and apparel businesses.

The retailer gave an update on its plans to expand its club footprint. “This year we continue to expect to open around 11 new clubs,” Eddy said. BJ’s Wholesale opened two new club locations during the first quarter, according to Eddy, and expects to begin operating in a 19th state next month, when it enters the Nashville, Tenn., market. The company opened three new gas stations during the first quarter.

BJ’s Wholesale exited the first quarter with 237 clubs and 167 gas stations in 18 states.

The company’s stock ended Tuesday’s session down 7.3%, outpacing the S&P 500

index’s decline of 1.1%, and was down a further 0.7% at midday Wednesday.

From the archives:

Walgreens cites organized retail crime in shutting five San Francisco locations

Target shortens hours in San Francisco due to ‘alarming rise’ in shoplifting

Target, CVS and Walgreens CEOs ask Congress for help amid retail crime surge


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