ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, has warned retailers to be extra vigilant during the Christmas and New Year period as they are being targeted by organised gangs of shoplifters. The Association outlined that retailers are twice as likely to be victims of shoplifting over the Christmas, as the level of crime rises due to the greater opportunity and the recession.
The direct shoplifting cost to retailers this year will be in excess of €230m, of which €51m will occur at Christmas alone. This does not take into account the amount spent on security, which adds hundreds of millions on to the cost for retail businesses. It is estimated that shoplifting alone adds up to 3% to the price of products.
While this is a significant direct cost, there is also a huge indirect and often underestimated cost of shoplifting and crime in general to business. Disruption to business activity with poor staff morale leading to absenteeism, and increased management time devoted to dealing with the aftermath of shoplifting incidents. Retailers and their staff wish to serve legitimate customers, but are spending far too much time attempting to prevent shoplifting.
ISME estimates that just over half of all retail outlets across the country will be targeted by shoplifters over the Christmas period, with most businesses experiencing more than one incident.
According to ISME Chief Executive, Mark Fielding "Criminals see the Christmas period as the ideal opportunity, with larger crowds in stores, more stock on shelves and an increase in temporary staff, who may not have the experience to identify shoplifters. We have seen an increase in organised retail crime gangs who move from shop to shop and town to town, 'stealing to order'.
"Electronic goods such as tablets, smart phones and games, expensive cosmetics, clothing and food products are the most common items targeted by thieves, causing huge financial damage to retailers up and down the country. The temptation to buy 'knock-off' goods is greater as people spend a great deal at Christmas and may be open to purchase cheaper stolen product."
While business owner-managers have a significant role to play in combating shoplifting through adequate security precautions, staff training and general vigilance, however, the ultimate responsibility to prevent, apprehend, adequately prosecute and punish those responsible for perpetrating criminal acts rests with those in charge of law enforcement.
The Association recommends that retailers take a number of steps to combat the increased level of crime against their business including;
• Good store management, including staff communications and training.
• Regular liaison with Garda Crime Prevention Office.
• Good stock controls, ensuring that management are aware of stock levels at all times and are in a position to notice 'shrinkage'.
• Adequate security measures which include CCTV and in-house security officers.
"The Association is calling for an increased garda presence in the main commercial and shopping centres over Christmas, together with swift court action to deter retail crime and jail the offenders, rather than the revolving door policy of prior years, which had the perpetrators back on the streets to reoffend at the New Year sales," concluded Fielding.