Imagine your local mobile phone shop, where some merchandise is on display, but the bulk of the product is stored securely out of sight. While security systems and protocols make a simple grab-and-dash from a mobile phone store increasingly difficult, retailers are reporting more dangerous armed robberies, like what we might think of at a bank. Security experts are seeing collaboration and planning between organized crime groups (OCGs) and street gangs. In some cases, up to half of the store’s merchandise is stolen before OCGs smuggle them out of the country, where they are then “wiped” and rendered untraceable to the retail supplier and costing millions in lost revenue. In their 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey, the U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated the toll from organized retail crime to be massive, “with the average loss topping $700,000 per $1 billion in sales.”
In 2009, only 5% of the global population owned a smartphone (roughly 340 million units). Fast forward to 2022, when global annual smartphone unit shipments are predicted to grow to more than 1.4 billion units. According to researchers, the global smartphone market will grow roughly 9% annually, reaching nearly $800 billion by 2027. With the worldwide demand rising just as quickly as the price of the devices themselves, it’s no surprise that device theft is one of the fastest-growing crime sectors.
A single pallet of smartphones has a potential street value of £750,000. With the rise of peer-to-peer markets (like Facebook Marketplace) and growing income disparity in Europe, a robust black market for smartphones has emerged. For a business such as T-Mobile Netherlands, the financial impacts range from massive stock loss, customer dissatisfaction, a reduction in sales (and therefore revenue) due to decreased stock to skyrocketing insurance premiums.