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Retailers Are Wary Of ‘Flash-Mob Robbers’ This Black Friday

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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As stores around the nation gear up for Black Friday, there is one thing on the minds of many retailers: flash-mob robbers.

Groups march into stores and within a few minutes steal thousands of dollars of merchandise, the Post reports. Typically made up of around 15 members, groups burst into a shop and head for the most lucrative items they can find and quickly loot the shop for all its worth. Some flash-mob groups are so skilled that by the time they are noticed, they have already escaped with their bounty.

Flash-mob robbers do not solely relegate their plunders to Black Friday. A group of flash-mob teens stole 19 iPhones over $13,000 at an Apple store in Boston in October.  Another group of young adults raided a Georgetown clothing store in D.C. in November, 2015, stealing thousands in merchandise and causing a great deal of public unrest. (RELATED: Gang Of Teens Swarm Posh DC Clothing Store)

Police officers who have responded to multiple flash-mob robberies say that the longest they have ever seen an attack last is two minutes, the Post reports. In that time frame, robbers can steal as much as $40,000 in merchandise. Given that the average response time for police to a crime scene in the U.S. is 11 minutes, the success sense of flash-mob groups is easy to understand.

Consequences abound, in addition to the obvious property loss and expense to the store owners: customers also feel the blow back. To compensate for the lost merchandise and revenue, store owners usually increase the prices of the goods still in inventory to make up the difference. This leaves innocent customers holding the bill.

The business term used to describe a firm’s lost revenue from theft, shoplifting, and fraud is called “shrink.” The annual cost of shrink to U.S. shoppers “as absorbed or passed on from retailers” averages out to “$615 per household,” according to Checkpoint Systems. Holiday season shrink costs the average consumer $50. While shrink costs cannot be solely attributed to flash-mob robbers, they no doubt have a hand in driving up the costs of goods for consumers.

Despite widespread fears, U.S. retailers seem to be gearing up for an incredibly lucrative Black Friday. Retailers invested heavily in early advertising, and offered advanced holiday deals online before Black Friday and it has paid off. American consumers have already spent $25.6 billion between Nov. 1 and Nov. 22, the Journal reports. That is a 3.5 percent increase from the same period last year.

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