Giant Food president says thieves are stealing ‘everything’ from shrimp to deodorant — and warns some grocery stores could close

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  • Giant Food, a mid-Atlantic grocery chain, could close stores due to theft, President Ira Kress said.
  • He told WTOP that Giant is also limiting the number of items that customers can buy at self-checkout.
  • Several major retailers have closed stores, citing theft and threats to employees’ safety.

Another retailer is threatening to close stores due to theft.

This time, it’s Giant Food, which operates about 170 stores in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Giant President Ira Kress told Washington DC radio station WTOP on Monday that thieves are stealing “everything,” from shrimp to deodorant, at Giant’s stores. In response, the chain has placed more items under lock and key, forcing customers to ask for an employee’s help.

Kress said he’s worried about violence at Giant’s stores.

“What we always must do is ensure we can run our stores safely and profitably,” Kress said to WTOP. “If I can’t do both of those things, I’ll have no choice but to close a store. This clearly takes a toll.” Kress didn’t say which stores might close.

To deter theft, Giant has also limited the number of items that customers can buy at once through its self-checkout lanes to 20, Kress said. The move has drawn criticism from some customers who want to buy full baskets of groceries, from produce to packaged foods, he added.

“We used to allow full baskets,” Kress said. “We now limit that to 20 items.”

Giant did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Kress’s remarks. 

Last fall, a security guard and a shoplifting suspect both died after exchanging gunfire at a Giant supermarket just South of Washington DC in Maryland, local TV station News4 reported at the time. Speaking to News4 on Monday, Kress said that rates of shoplifting at Giant have “probably increased five to 10 times in the last three years.”

The grocery chain is one of many retailers that have warned about store closures and other measures due to theft at their stores. Last year, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said that the retailer could close stores or raise prices if theft continued. In San Francisco, Amazon-owned Whole Foods shuttered a store just a year after it opened. The grocery chain pointed to issues that menaced workers at the store, which the New York Times reported included assaults and drug use by patrons.

But some retailers have admitted that they have exaggerated their problems with theft. After Walgreens closed five stores in San Francisco and cited shoplifting as the reason, the company’s CFO said earlier this year that the company “cried too much” about the problem.

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