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Retail crime on the rise as nation faces deepening economic woes

BY Antoinette Alexander

ARLINGTON, Va. As the economic crunch tightens its grip on the nation, crimes against retailers appear to be on the rise, according to the findings of a recent survey released by The Retail Industry Leaders Association.

According to RILA’s Current Crime Trends Survey, both crimes of opportunity and sophisticated organized retail crime are on the rise across all retail segments.

The survey examines the observations from 52 of the largest and fastest growing retailers in the United States, ranging from food, drug and mass to specialty apparel, electronics and appliances, and fabric and craft retail.

The survey focuses on the time period associated with the current economic downtown and seeks to identify corresponding trends in unlawful activity.

Furthermore, retailers are reporting an alarming upward trend in crimes in regions not typically prone to such increases.

Among the findings:

• 84 percent report an increase in theft/amateur shoplifting

• 76 percent report an increase in financial fraud

• 80 percent report increases in organized retail crime

• 77 percent of specialty retailers report increases in organized retail crime.

In an effort to curb such activity, retailers report that they are working to make improvements in their operations, resource allocation and capital spending. They also continue to work with law enforcement and state and federal legislators to find solutions.

According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer, put out by the Centre for Retail Research, U.S. retailers spent nearly $12 billion last year on loss prevention efforts.

The reported increases in organized retail crime highlight a potential long-term issue, according to RILA. Such crimes involve crime rings that steal and stockpile large quantities of merchandise that they then sell often to unwitting buyers. The stolen merchandise is sold through flea markets, swap meets, pawn shops and increasingly through Internet auction sites. As the economy improves, organized retail crimes will likely continue as the criminal enterprises associated with organized retail crime become reliant on the revenue derived from the commission of this crime.

“Organized retail criminals are ramping up their activity. The resulting ability to fund additional crimes should be a concern to everyone,” said Paul Jones, vice president of asset protection at RILA.

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Costco selects Raikes for board of directors

BY Jenna Duncan

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco Wholesale Corp. announced Tuesday that it has elected chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Jeff Raikes to a seat on its board of directors.

“We are very pleased to welcome Jeff as a new member of our Board. Not only does Jeff bring over twenty-five years of private sector experience, he also brings his reputation as a trusted and respected leader,” Jeff Brotman, chairman of the Costco board of directors said. “[Raikes] and his wife, Patricia, have been deeply involved in education and children’s issues. In addition, they served as co-chairs of the 2006 United Way of King County Fund Raising Campaign, its most successful ever.”

Raikes for more than 25 years served on the senior management team at Microsoft Corporation, where he had spent over twenty-five years. He served as president of the Microsoft Business Division, where he helped support growth to Microsoft’s business productivity line, as well as increasing revenues to almost $16 billion per year.

Raikes has headed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since September. He is responsible for arranging strategy priorities, monitoring their results and maintaining relationships with the foundation’s key partners.

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American Greetings rolls out gifts, greeting cards that reflect personal messages

BY Jenna Duncan

CLEVELAND American Greetings has announced a new line of greeting cards and gifts geared for the shopper who wishes to pass along more personalized messages of hope, peace and warm feelings for the holidays.

“This year’s card collection has something for everyone,” said Rochelle Lulow, American Greetings’ creative director. “We found that consumers are looking for longer, more heartfelt copy, and they want innovations such as sound and lights to make the card even more memorable and special.”

Holiday gift buyers, for example, can create a variety of personal gift items, such as mousepads, mugs and calendars by adding their own pictures by uploading photos to an account with PhotoWorks.com, American Greetings’ photo sharing, processing and print-ordering specialty site.

In addition to having more personalized messages, American Greetings has said that the new holiday cards were designed with warm colors, and many have special features such as lights that twinkle and recorded musical greetings. American Greetings also said that the new line will focus on nostalgia and also utilize iconic imagery.

An assortment of holiday gift wraps, gift boxes, greeting cards and other holiday specialty items can also be ordered online at AmericanGreetings.com, the company said.

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