Retail theft takes a hard toll on small local businesses

Dec 9, 2022, 6:29 PM | Updated: 7:23 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Inflation isn’t the only force behind rising prices as the former CEOs of Walmart and Home Depot say retail theft is growing at epidemic levels.

It’s a problem that costs retailers nationwide nearly $100 billion.

All of that theft is hitting small businesses hard.

In downtown Ogden, you can find dozens of family-owned, small businesses.

They get hit to some degree with all the same things the big box stores get but they don’t have the same resources to fight back.

Just north of 25th street, along Washington Boulevard in Ogden is Heebeegeebeez Comix and Games.

“I believe that all of us have stories to share,” said owner Jonathan Pust. “A lot of our goal here is to recapture joy, the safety and the innocence of childhood. The things that reminded you when life was good.”

He is passionate about that. And when someone steals, it hurts just that much more.

“You try and not to take it personally, but absolutely can take it personally because you feel like this is my house,” Pust said. “I’m welcoming the public into my place.”

Heebee geebeez is on north of 25th street, along Washington Boulevard in Ogden. (KSL TV) Store owner Johnathan Pust says he has few resources to stop shoplifters. (KSL TV) Pust says his goal is to recapture joy, the safety and the innocence of childhood. (KSL TV) Casey Warren is assistant chief at the Riverdale Police Department. (KSL TV)

Retail theft impacts businesses of all sizes. According to the National Retail Federation, big-box stores have increased their budgets for loss prevention and surveillance by more than 50% in recent years.

“It’s surprising how much there is out there,” Casey Warren, assistant chief at the Riverdale Police Department said.

Some of those bigger stores report multiple thefts a day. Warren said, “We try to work with them to see what’s going on, what’s causing it.”

Much of theft is driven by drug addiction but they try to point offenders toward resources.

“We certainly try to encourage them to seek help, and if there’s anything in the court system can do to help them through that process,” Warren added.

It can be tough to catch thieves if you don’t have the resources. It’s why business owners like Pust depend on others to be considerate and keep an eye out.

“Every man has the ability to go ‘hey, I think he’s stealing something’ or ‘hey don’t steal that,’” Pust said.

He also points out that bigger retailers get bigger discounts on their inventory, while with some of his items, he may only have a 20% to 30% profit margin.

If one item is stolen, he has to sell several more to make up for the loss.

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Retail theft takes a hard toll on small local businesses