The National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, has issued a public apology for making a false claim that organized retail theft (ORT) has surged by 60% in the past year. The NRF had cited a report by the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), a nonprofit organization that fights ORT, as the source of the claim. However, the report turned out to be based on a survey of only 10 retailers, which is not representative of the entire industry.
Organized retail theft (ORT), also known as organized retail crime (ORC), involves two or more people who conspire to steal retail merchandise with the intention of reselling the items at a profit. Unlike shoplifting, which involves an individual stealing something for their own personal use, ORT is usually a large-scale operation backed by a criminal enterprise that may also engage in other types of theft, fraud, and money laundering.
ORT is one of the biggest issues facing the retail industry today, representing a problem totaling about $100 billion. These types of crimes pose a major safety threat to retail workers and customers, as thefts often turn aggressive or violent. ORT is also a major cause of retail shrinkage, or inventory loss. According to the 2022 National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), published by the National Retail Federation (NRF), shrinkage represented nearly $100 billion in losses for the retail industry in 2022.
How Did the NRF Make the False Claim?
The NRF made the false claim of a 60% surge in ORT in a press release on November 29, 2023, ahead of the holiday shopping season. The press release quoted Matthew Shay, the president and CEO of the NRF, as saying:
“Organized retail crime continues to present a serious challenge to the retail industry. These criminal gangs are sophisticated and agile, and the crimes they commit are extremely dangerous and often violent. Retailers have invested significantly in recent years to confront this challenge, but they need more help from policymakers to ensure that laws and penalties are up to date and that law enforcement has the resources it needs to address this issue.”
The press release also cited a report by the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), a nonprofit organization that fights ORT, as the source of the claim. The report, titled “The State of Organized Retail Crime in America”, was published on November 16, 2023, and claimed that ORT had increased by 60% in the past year, based on a survey of 10 retailers.
However, the report was later found to be flawed and unreliable, as it did not use a representative sample of the retail industry, nor did it provide any details on the methodology or the margin of error of the survey. The report also contradicted the findings of the NRSS, which showed that ORT had decreased by 2.5% in 2022.
How Did the NRF Apologize for the False Claim?
The NRF issued a public apology for the false claim on December 7, 2023, after USA TODAY contacted the organization for clarification. The NRF admitted that it had made a mistake in relying on the CLEAR report, and that it had not verified the accuracy or the validity of the data. The NRF also said that it had removed the press release from its website, and that it had notified its members and the media of the error.
The NRF apologized for any confusion or inconvenience that the false claim may have caused, and said that it remained committed to fighting ORT and supporting the retail industry. The NRF also said that it would review its internal processes and procedures to ensure that such a mistake would not happen again.
The NRF’s apology was welcomed by some retail experts and analysts, who said that the organization had acted swiftly and responsibly to correct the error. However, some critics said that the NRF had damaged its credibility and reputation by making such a false claim, and that it had undermined the efforts of the retail industry and law enforcement to combat ORT.