Los Angeles police seized $7 million worth of stolen Nike sneakers stashed away in a warehouse Wednesday.
Commercial crime detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) first learned about the case after receiving a report that several cargo containers were stolen from trucks near the Port of Los Angeles. Investigators tracked the sneakers to nearby Torrance, Calif. and served a search warrant for the warehouse Wednesday evening.
The LAPD told local CBS news affiliate KCAL that the sneakers were the only items found in the raid and no arrests have been made. The department confirmed to Sourcing Journal that officers are working to locate two to five persons of interest but have yet to make any arrests.
Sourcing Journal reached to Nike for comment.
Nike sneakers and apparel are hot items when it comes to shoplifting or cargo theft, whether it be at a retail store, a warehouse or a shipping container. Retail shrink accounted for $94.5 billion in industry losses in 2021, up 4 percent from the year prior, according to National Retail Federation data. Cargo theft and fraud have risen a more rapid pace in the time since, at 41 percent in the first 20 weeks of 2023 compared to the year-ago period, according to CargoNet.
To kick off June, Los Angeles law enforcement dismantled an organized retail crime ring accused of stealing $750,000 of merchandise from a single Nike store over the past year. During the two-day bust, detectives arrested 12 people who were connected with the crime ring. Law enforcement returned $2,669.28 in recovered merchandise to Nike.
Last year, Memphis saw multiple major instances of Nike theft. In September, criminals stole $800,000 worth of Nike clothes and shoes after breaking into 20 trailers by the athletic giant’s rail-adjacent distribution center. Ahead of Black Friday roughly 20 suspects broke into a Memphis boutique, stealing $100,000 in Nike sneakers. One Nike factory store in Portland, Ore. closed for weeks during the holiday season due to the constant barrage of “smash-and-grab” robberies.
There were even multiple occurrences of inside jobs, with warehouse managers and delivery drivers alike stealing thousands of dollars in Nike merchandise.
This year started with yet another Nike theft, as Memphis police arrested two suspects who stole about $60,000 worth of the Swoosh’s merchandise from five CSX railway boxcars.
Speaking to this week’s incident, an employee at Los Angeles-based mom-and-pop sneaker store Coolkicks, which specializes in limited-release Nike Jordans, echoed the sentiment that the popular brand is one of the most sought-after merchandise for would-be thieves.
“We have shoes in here that start at $150, we have shoes in here that go for $15,000 to $20,000,” Frank Garriola, a merchandise buyer at Coolkicks, told KCAL.
Garriola said the prices of the sneakers rise and fall depending on their availability.
“They sell out in seconds online and at stores. There’s like a hype for them—just the collaboration and who’s designing it and the model of the sneaker too.”
In many cases, criminals are committing more thefts amid both a burgeoning secondhand market and the proliferation of e-commerce retail, which have made it easier to sell stolen goods. In the wake of the $800,000 Memphis railway robbery, online footwear and streetwear resale marketplace StockX temporarily paused sales of three separate pairs of Air Jordan sneakers it felt might be connected to the crime.
Across the board, organized retail crime (ORC) persists, with 70 percent of retailers believing the threat of ORC had increased during the past five years, according to the NRF’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey.
However, UBS equity research analyst Michael Lasser sees reasons to believe the retail sector has reached the peak of the shrink cycle.
“As we see it, the impact of shrink will turn from a headwind to a tailwind later this year and into next year,” Lasser wrote this week, pointing out Target, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, The Home Depot, Ulta Beauty Walmart and Kroger as retailers that would benefit the most.
Federal legislation aimed at fighting the retail crime problem will go into effect on June 27.
In December, Congress passed the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or the INFORM Consumers Act, which is designed to add more transparency to online transactions and to deter criminals from acquiring stolen, counterfeit, or unsafe items and selling them through online marketplaces.