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You better watch out: 'Flash robs' loom this holiday season

NRF reports 10% of retailers have experienced flash robbery

NEW YORK — There's one trend that retailers should brace for this holiday season.

Despite projected spending outlooks made by several research and retail groups, retailers nationwide will draw crowds this holiday season. However, it seems that certain consumers (particularly, teenagers and young adults) have utilized the power of technology and social media to conduct "flash robs," a take on the impromptu gatherings known as flash mobs.

Last week, the National Retail Federation released its 2011 crowd management guidelines, which warned retailers to be mindful of these events. According to an NRF Criminal Flash Mob report, 10% of retailers said they have been a victim of this type of multiple offender crime.

"Traditionally, these multiple offender crime groups engage in grab-and-run scenarios where offenders quickly enter stores and target specific merchandise — such as high-end handbags, jewelry and designer clothing — then flee, sometimes to a waiting vehicle or, as was the case in several high profile incidents, using mass transit," NRF said on its website.

"Many families make holiday shopping an important tradition, and retailers’ main goal is to make that experience a safe and pleasant one," said Joe LaRocca, NRF senior asset protection adviser Joe LaRocca said. "Crowd management is not taken lightly for retailers, who plan ahead for months in anticipation of large events with practice runs, a well-trained staff, and a thorough analysis of the company and its customers."

The Wall Street Journal also cited several instances of "flash robs," including one at a Philadelphia-area Sears over the summer, as well as several stores in Chicago. Affected retailers included Armani Exchange, Filene's Basement and The North Face.

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