The highest retail sales on record are predicted for this year’s holiday season.

The holiday season is upon us, and as we enter the busiest shopping season of the year, retailers should take note: despite the global supply chain driving up prices for goods, the 2021 holiday shopping season is predicted to shatter previous spending records.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday sales during November and December of 2021 will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. This comes on the heels of 2020’s increase of 8.2% after consumers attempted to return to some semblance of holiday normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic. The NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31, and its forecast is based on economic modeling that considers indicators such as employment rates, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit, and weather.

Unfortunately, the ‘season of giving’ is also the season of taking, as theft rates surge over the holidays. This year is predicted to be particularly overwhelming for retailers. The increase in sales will bring an increase in merchandise shrink from shoplifting, organized retail crime and other criminal behavior. These circumstances lead not only to lost profits, but also safety concerns for both customers and employees.

With the busiest shopping season in history on the horizon, it’s critical for retailers to understand their risks and vulnerabilities.

Risks and Vulnerabilities for Chicago Retailers

The holiday season is unequivocally the busiest time of the year for the retail industry. Criminals know this and will dramatically increase their attacks on businesses during this time of year.

On any given year, shrinkage – or the loss of inventory due to theft, shoplifting, error, or fraud – skyrockets during the holiday season by more than 15%. In fact, 37% of retailers’ annual shrink loss occurs during the holiday shopping season. One of the biggest reasons for the increase in shrinkage involves increased foot traffic, which creates chaotic stores and overwhelmed employees. Criminals are opportunistic and take full advantage of these circumstances.

Organized Retail Crime

From smash-and-grabs on Michigan Avenue and State Street to large-scale looting events, organized retail crime (ORC) is on the rise throughout Illinois, accounting for a staggering $45 billion in losses for Chicago area retailers.

ORC is a sophisticated method of theft that involves professional thieves working as an organized group to steal large amounts of inventory. From in-store thefts to cargo hijacking, ORC activities are reportedly growing more brazen and violent, putting the safety of customers and employees in jeopardy.

Like other methods of theft, ORC activity increases during the holidays due to increased opportunities to strike. It’s important to note that ORC enterprises do not discriminate, and criminals will target every product line that can be easily monetized. The proceeds from these thefts are then used to fund other illegal activities, such as human trafficking and narcotics.

Pushout Theft

Pushout theft, which involves filling a shopping cart with merchandise and then leaving the store without paying, is an attack on retailers’ revenue and margins and fueled largely by ORC groups and opportunistic shoplifters.

Unlike typical shoplifting, which relies on concealment of smaller items, pushout theft targets larger items in greater quantities. The average loss of pushout theft is $1,342 and 10% of these thefts end in violence.

Over the past couple of months in Chicago, a shoplifting team – which is often violent –  has repeatedly raided high-end retailers to steal expensive merchandise along the Magnificent Mile, Oak Street, and Rush Street. But luxury boutiques aren’t the only stores falling victim to theft. Prolific retailers such as Walgreens, 7-Eleven, and Ulta Beauty have also been subjected to increased theft. The theft is suspected of being part of a large-scale operation that sells stolen name-brand merchandise online at deep discounts. In most cases, individuals or crews are walking out of the store with garbage bags full of stolen products.


Shoplifting is a constant issue for retailers, but as the holiday season approaches, shoplifting incidents increase dramatically.

A 2021 study by Compare Camp found that Chicago is now one of the top 5 cities in the nation for shoplifting incidents, and the growing problem with retail theft in the Chicagoland area has made national headlines in recent weeks. Although theft is rampant across the city, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile has recently become the target of rampant shoplifting that has forced several retail stores to close their doors for good.

Studies from the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention show that more than 9% of consumers are shoplifters. On average, they are apprehended only one in every 48 times they shoplift.

Employee Theft

Shoplifters won’t be the only thieves taking advantage of this year’s busy holiday season. Employee theft also increases dramatically during the holiday season. The NRF estimates that employee theft accounts for over 33% of yearly shrinkage and costs retailers more than $15 billion. This can be attributed to an increase in the number of temporary holiday staff members in any retail location, who are generally less committed and have less training than permanent staff. Since their work is only temporary, many holiday season employees have fewer qualms with stealing.

Safety Concerns on the Premises

The huge influx of shoppers on a retailer’s property this holiday season will increase the likelihood of crimes happening both inside and outside the store.

The FBI reports that parking lots and garages are the third most dangerous location for violent crime; criminals take advantage of reduced lighting and decreased surveillance. During the holiday shopping season, thieves are looking for easy targets, including cars filled with purchases and distracted individuals carrying shopping bags full of merchandise back to their vehicles.

How Chicago Retailers Can Mitigate Risks This Holiday Season

The consequences of failing to address the wide variety of security threats during the holiday season can be catastrophic to a Chicago retailer’s bottom line.

Chicago is currently experiencing a wave of organized smash and grab robberies, forcing some retail stores to shutter their doors for good. Thieves have broken windows, flooded stores, beaten and pepper-sprayed employees and made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise. In light of these recent incidents, utilizing access control systems can ensure restricted and controlled access to a store’s property, allowing only authorized visitors onto the premises and greatly increasing the location’s security.

The Blue Star Security team comprises of state-certified law enforcement officers with extensive training in retail security, loss prevention, crisis management and public safety.

Chicago retailers can utilize our armed security services to help them re-focus on operating their business during the busiest shopping season of the year. Our team can help Chicago retailers with:

  • Shoplifting Prevention
  • Employee Theft Prevention
  • Organized Retail Crime Investigations
  • Parking Lot Security

To learn more about the steps that your business can take to ensure better safety and security for your customers and staff, call us at 708-669-7470 or contact us online at bluestarsecurityltd.com/contact-us.

To learn more about our retail security services, visit https://bluestarsecurityllc.com/services/retail-security/.

To learn more about our Organized Retail Crime Investigation services, visit https://bluestarsecurityllc.com/services/organized-retail-crime-investigations/.