The $435 Tube of Lip Gloss

I don’t need to gauge the desperation in today’s economy or question the moral relativism that presupposes the concept of theft. My concern lies in the trickle-down effect of theft for manufacturers.

I have never stolen anything in my life. It’s not something I consider particularly notable, simply because I feel it should be intuitive — a default. I was raised by hard-working parents who themselves were raised by folks who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. I don’t think I could so much as palm a tube of lip gloss without picturing my immigrant great-grandparents in their somber black-and-white photos, eking out a life with their bare hands.

Thus my displeasure in reading a recent CNN report that highlighted a fairly significant increase in retail crimes over the past year — nearly 9 percent, in fact.

I don’t see the value in attempting to gauge the real level of desperation that exists in today’s economy … Or, for that matter, the question of moral relativism that presupposes the concept of theft out of necessity. For our practical purposes, my concern lies in the trickle-down effect for manufacturers. Additional costs will affect us from both a personal and professional standpoint.

This trend has cost the average American family about $435 says the article. As infuriating as this is, what’s worse is the effects these may have on your production and eventual retail prices. In a B-to-C cost structure, higher prices can often mean lower overall sales, less demand, less production … Fewer necessary employees? You get it. This is not to mention the additional packaging and security costs that are required on smaller sized goods — with the highest of retail thefts including easily resold electronic items, such as Wiis, iPods, GPS systems, etc.

I don’t know how this situation can be remedied (other than the highly unlikely universal pact that we all agree to stop stealing), but do the current economic conditions and their associated consumer reactions simply nurture an environment in which manufacturers’ and distributors’ hands are tied?

From another, not unrelated angle — theft is certainly not the only change we’ve seen from a consumer standpoint; people are simply buying less. Remaining competitive has been a particularly poignant struggle as of late, and it has been reflected in some aggressive and creative strategies from manufacturers who refuse to lie down and take it.

That being said, I have a million questions:

  • Is making your product indispensible to the consumer best done with a greater focus on research and development, and design enhancements, or is the onus on a strong marketing strategy?
  • For those manufacturing to a consumer marketplace, have you been affected by an uptick in retail crime?
  • From a sheer competitive standpoint, how have you reached out to the consumer?

I’d also be interested in hearing from you on ways in which this tough economy has made people better, rather than worse. There’s a lot of good out there, and it’s unfortunate that much of the news exposure has to come in the way of reports on which grocery items get lifted the most (processed meats and cheeses, says CNN).

If you’d like to steal a brief moment to reflect upon some hard-working altruistic folks in America, check out this video of a boss who donates a kidney to an employee. (I found it to be nice reminder that some folks still give more than they take.)

What do you think about the increase in retail theft? Or, what are you doing to remain competitive? Send me your thoughts via e-mail at