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The true cost of Christmas to retailers

  • News
  • December 3, 2015
  • Elly Strang
The true cost of Christmas to retailers

Shoplifting is no small issue in New Zealand. It’s estimated that shoplifting costs the country up to $750 million a year, which equates to over two million dollars a day.

During the holidays, shoplifting steps up a notch.

In the US, the four weeks leading up to Christmas will result in an estimated US$1.8 billion in merchandise being stolen from retailers, according to The Global Retail Theft Barometer.

It’s not just retailers who suffer, either – shoplifting can also impact on shoppers and employees, as retailers cut workers’ hours, pay and even raise the price of products to make up for the losses.

But a New Zealand based software company is aiming to combat rising theft with new technology.

Auror works with major retailers in hundreds of stores across Australasia and over 800 police officers to log, track and catch shoplifters.

CEO Phil Thomson says there’s a definite spike in shoplifting in New Zealand around Christmas, particularly in meat, kitchen products, confectionery and entertainment products.

“While it is difficult to attribute a specific dollar amount here in New Zealand, global statistics show that this is a multi-billion-dollar problem over the Christmas holidays,” Thomson says.

He says the increased numbers of shoppers creates an opportunity for shoplifters, as staff are more preoccupied.

Organised groups of shoplifters stealing items to sell on for profit are also common, he says.

When Auror begun, the company spoke to police about shoplifting and were told that efforts to reduce it were fragmented and reactive, retailers often didn’t know who prolific shoplifters were and the cost to report and deal with the crime was often not worth the effort.

This inspired Auror to create its software, which lets retailers to log in online and report a theft in under 10 minutes by alerting local police and allowing direct reporting to the police crime reporting line.

The information collated from various retailers helps police and businesses identify offenders and accomplices, link them to vehicles and also identify trends.

One of the trends identified by Auror that retailers should be aware of is there a lot of organised shoplifting crime rings.

Thomson says often people think shoplifting is unplanned and opportunistic, when really it’s organised and intentional.

Recently, the company worked with Counties Manukau Police to identify an offender that was linked to over 44 incidents totalling over $25,000 across 18 stores.

The offender had over 20 associates and seven vehicles associated to him.

Using information put on Auror by different retailers, police had strong evidence to go on and guilty pleas were entered on most of his offenses. He was sentenced and hasn’t reoffended since.

Another month-long trial in Christchurch ended in the arrests of more than 130 people, with hundreds of stores signing up and sharing information on thefts.

Another trend Auror found that retailers should be aware of is shoplifters are often on-selling goods on social media, often on buy/sell pages on Facebook.

“This manner of crime is particularly hard to police as it is so fast moving,” Thomson says. “It is important that people on social media are aware of this issue and that they are not enabling this criminal activity.”

Retail NZ says it’s really important retailers are aware of the higher risk of retail crime at Christmas. Its tips for retailers on security and loss prevention include:

Robbery risks

  • With extra cash on site comes the extra risk of robbery – reduce the amount of cash held at your POS.
  • Always use a safe to secure cash.
  • Revisit your company’s Armed Robbery Safety Procedures. If you don’t have any, take advice from your local police or visit the website to access the police crime prevention advice for businesses.
  • Consider having a security company uplift your banking. Never take business cash home.
  • Carefully vet temporary staff and reinforce company rules.
  • Revisit your opening and closing procedures. Be aware of what is happening in your environment. If you think something or someone is suspicious, act on those suspicions - take a second look.
  • If you do fall victim to a robbery, don’t be a hero. Safety first. Remember robbers typically want just three things: control, money, escape.

Thieves

Expect thieves to be ‘out and about’. Increased customers in-store can give thieves extra cover but also increases the number of eyes on them.

Some good advice to deter thieves is:          

  • Be aware of customers and their behaviour
  • Show customers you are alert to what is happening in your store
  • Always acknowledge customers and practice excellent customer service
  • Don’t stereotype; anyone can steal.
  • Ensure all staff understand what is expected of them in the event of theft. Conduct role plays with staff on dealing with suspicious customers.
  • If an incident does happen and the thief is uncooperative or aggressive, don’t give chase. The risk is too great. Observe from a safe distance to provide the police with information.

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