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Andrea Felsted

Shoplifting Is Scaring Retailers. Wall Street Should Worry, Too

Retail theft is a good indicator of consumer sentiment — and distress.

Where’s it all gone?

Where’s it all gone?

Photographer: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Wall Street is desperately trying to figure out where consumer demand is going. Alongside sentiment and sales, there’s another indicator worth watching: shoplifting.

This metric is rarely talked about. It’s uncomfortable for retail executives to acknowledge that their customers or, worse still, their employees are stealing from them. But theft has long been a bugbear for retailers, and it’s now been thrust into the spotlight by a spate of increasingly violent robberies across the U.S.