Customer theft accounts for more than 50% of lost retail revenue

According to the first dedicated retail crime survey for Australian and New Zealand retailers there has been a major increase in customer theft, which now accounts for more than 50 per cent of revenue lost from stores due to crime.

The report estimates that crime-related loss is 0.92 per cent of revenue, revealing a $3.37 billion direct cost of crime to the industry in the 2017-18 financial year. Sixty-seven per cent of retailers says that it is difficult to combat shoplifters with their current resources because of the diverse and sophisticated ways that criminals are now targeting retailers.

According to the study, customer theft and dishonest employee theft remain primary concerns for retailers in Australia and New Zealand. Theft of merchandise was ranked highly across the entire sector, while theft of cash was not as common, signalling a shift away from cash towards electronic payment and mobile commerce.

Mark Gentle, vice president of Checkpoint Australia, which sponsored the study, says that the research shows that thieves have upped their game and retailers need to adapt to stay ahead.

“Loss prevention technologies are still the best deterrents for opportunistic shoplifters and when combined with good customer service, will often significantly reduce theft in stores,” he says.

“It has also become clear that retailers have lost confidence in law enforcement’s response to retail crime and this has allowed shoplifters to become bolder. These findings should encourage retailers to invest in further theft prevention measures. There has been a major focus on cybercrime and cybersecurity in retail. Yet this push towards protecting digital assets has apparently left a gaping hole for shoplifters to take advantage of gaps in retailer’s security in stores.”

Indeed, thieves are becoming more brazen adds Dr Emmeline Taylor, lead researcher and reader in criminology at City, University of London.

“We have seen this in the recent ‘steaming’ technique used by gangs to overpower mobile phone shops in broad daylight, often intimidating staff and pushing customers out of the way to reach the stock,” she explains.

“Thieves now tell me that it’s easy to get away with petty theft. Reward greatly outweighs the risk. There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this including the introduction of self-service checkout, and changes in criminal behaviour.”

However, Gentle says that Australians are collaborating more with each other, with bodies such as the Profit Protection Future Forum bringing retailers together twice a year to discuss new developments in the industry.

“Knowledge is power and Australian retailers are beginning to realise that sharing information within the industry will keep the industry, as a whole, ahead of the game.”