Merchants still pushing passage of retail theft bill

Filed under: Retail |

Federal law enforcement authorities estimate that theft rings steal as much as $30 billion in merchandise from retail stores every year.

Organized retail theft is much different than shoplifting. ORT usually involves multiple people who steal goods, not for their own personal use, but to sell through fencing operations, flea markets and swap meets.

ORT also generally involves higher quantities of stolen goods.

Congress is considering legislation that would create an Organized Retail Theft Task Force at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an organized retail crime database similar to National Retail Federation’s Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network.

The bill is being supported by large retailers, including Target, Safeway and King Soopers, as well as small businesses and convenience stores.

The national database would determine where organized retail crimes are being committed. The information would help the FBI identify hot spots of organized retail crime activity and deploy agents and resources more efficiently.

The bill also provides a concise working definition of organized retail crime and authorizes $5 million annually for law enforcement to participate in the database. Some of the money would be used to train federal law enforcement agents to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

The database would allow law enforcement agencies to identify trends by geographic area or type of incident. It is expected to help reveal patterns of organized theft and other major loss prevention incidents.

The House Judiciary Committee has passed the bill. It will be considered next by the House Appropriations Committee.

Soft drink sales fall for first time in 20 years

For the first time in two decades, the sales volume of carbonated soft drinks fell last year across retail, vending and fountain channels.

It appears that health-conscious consumers are opting for water and noncarbonated products.

According to Beverage Digest, volume slid 0.2 percent – and if it hadn’t factored in energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster – carbonated beverage volume would have tumbled even further, 0.7 percent.

“The carbonated soft drink business in the U.S. has basic fundamental problems,” said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest. “This is the first generation of children that are going to grow up not viewing soft drinks as the ultimate treat.

“They’re growing up on things like sports drinks, water and noncarbonated drinks. As these little kids move into late teens and early adulthood, their drinking habits are going to be different than past generations.”

Although volume fell, sales in the $70 billion category grew 3.3 percent, mostly because of price increases for regular and diet drinks and premium pricing for energy drinks.

There were some winners, however.

Of the top three soft-drink marketers, Cadbury Schweppes grew its volume by 0.6 percent – in contrast to leader Coca-Cola Co., down 0.1 percent, and Pepsi-Cola Co., down 1.2 percent.

Among the top five brands, Coke Classic dropped 2 percent, Pepsi-Cola slid 3.2 percent, Diet Coke slipped 0.1 percent and Diet Pepsi 1.9 percent. No. 4 brand Mountain Dew grew 1.8 percent.

Premium coffee marketers stir up rivals

In an effort to keep their share of the $8.3 billion coffee business, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are battling with McDonald’s over the fast-foot giant’s introduction of premium roast coffee.

McDonald’s, with 13,700 U.S. locations, is using convenience and efficient drive-through as a marketing tool. McDonald’s is offering coupons for a free 12-once serving of the 100 percent Arabica coffee through April 12.

To get consumers to wake up and smell their brands, Starbucks poured an estimated half-million 12-ounce cups of coffee at its 7,500 stores nationwide and Dunkin’ Donuts provided free taxi rides in Boston and New York and sample shots of its Hot Turbo coffee, a regular cup with a shot of espresso.

The brands are vying for their fix of the premium coffee business, which is expected to reach about $19 billion during the next five years, according to sales tracker Mintel.

Convenience store giant 7-Eleven boosted its coffee program last year with new flavors and re-sealable cups. And on April 3, beverage giant Coca-Cola will launch Coca-Cola Blak, a Coke-and-coffee combination.

U.S. chain stores sales down 1.6 percent last week

Slow pre-Easter sales and cold weather pushed U.S. chain store sales down 1.6 percent last week compared to the previous week, according to the International Council of Shopping Center’s index.

The year-over-year pace of growth slowed slightly to 2.7 percent for the week.

“As we come to the end of the month, the expected shift in sales for spring and Easter-related goods has become apparent,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research.

For March, Niemira said he expects same-store sales to rise between 2.5 percent and 3 percent, on a year-over-year basis.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.