The international world of retail crime and solutions

NRF PROTECT: Retail loss prevention experts from Walmart, H&M and Aritzia share commonalities and challenges — no passport required
Sheryll Poe
NRF Contributor

When it comes to theft, fraud and organized retail crime, it’s a small world. Retail loss prevention experts from around the globe share many of the same concerns and challenges.


Checkout the recap and learn more about NRF Protect, covering insights and strategies on loss prevention, asset protection, digital fraud and cybersecurity.

But while there are some commonalities, there are also economic, legislative and even cultural nuances that make retail loss prevention and fraud detection unique in each country and region.

Take for example, the United Kingdom. The UK has 43 police forces, but they all adhere to and uphold the same national laws regarding retail crimes. In the United States, retailers have to deal with laws in all 50 states plus a federal law, Claire Rushton, senior director, Walmart Global Investigations, said at NRF PROTECT.

In some South American countries where violence against in-store security guards is especially high, it is common to see those guards wearing tactical gear, according to H&M’s Head of Security and Compliance for the Americas Karen D. Osorio. In the U.S., guards wearing tactical gear would be considered intimidating to customers.

And in Canada, which has also seen an uptick in workplace violence — according to a recent Retail Council of Canada survey, seven out of 10 retail employees said they were a victim of workplace violence, an increase of almost 200% since 2020 — de-escalation training for employees is key to keeping employees and customers safe, said Edmundo Velazquez, Aritzia’s senior director of enterprise risk for North America.

Maximize available data

What most retailers have in common is access to data, Rushton said.

“In terms of retailers, we know an awful lot of what’s going on, we know our data and what the data is telling us,” she said. For retailers that are looking to expand into other regions, the first step should be to look at the data and be aware of any potential hotspots, as that awareness can help shape a retailer’s loss prevention efforts.

At Aritzia, leadership gives Velazquez’s team an annual list of places they might want to open a store for further research. “We do our due diligence,” he said. “It’s a methodical process that can’t be missed.”

Learn the culture and be knowledgeable

Osorio, who spent three years living and working in Colombia, recommends retailers looking to expand make sure they understand a particular country’s cultural issues around security in the retail environment. She also says it’s important to have the right talent in place who know how to work with local police departments, which are usually short-staffed and where calls from retail stores can have a wait time of eight to 10 hours.

One solution that many retailers in South America have turned to is the use of third-party vendors that can work with retailers and law enforcement to prosecute cases, she said.

Engage local retailers for lessons learned

One area where U.S. retailers have far exceeded their global cohorts is in collaboration, said Rushton. “The power of collaboration is very useful,” she said, noting that retailers had been able to work together to pass the INFORM Consumers Act. “You don’t see that collaboration and influence among retailers in the UK.”

Velazquez mentioned California retailers’ work on passage of Proposition 47, which strengthened the penalties for non-violent property crimes. “As someone who lived in California and San Francisco, we’ve seen the influence of Prop 47,” he said.

One of the first cases Velazquez worked on for Aritzia was a product diversion case in Long Beach. The retailer was able to work with law enforcement, U.S. Customs and the FBI to track down the group and arrest them — something that wouldn’t necessarily have happened in Aritzia’s home country. “Canada is a bit behind,” Velazquez said. “The threshold is $5,000 in loss for just a felony, so takes a lot to get a case to a final” resolution.

Collaboration between law enforcement and retailers isn’t always a given, but when and where it exists, it can lead to great results for retailers and the communities in which they operate.

Organized retail crime

Learn more about organized retail crime and how you can help combat the issue.

Rushton noted that there has been a general apathy to retail crime in UK where the threshold for loss keeps creeping up — currently, a retail theft incident has to be over $300 for prosecution. “People say it is a victimless crime,” she said.

But in the U.S., there is a realization that retail crime is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. “Since 2021, there have been 20 new ORC laws put in place, which is a great development,” Rushton said.

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