The recent arrest of almost 200 shoplifters in Sydney and Perth highlights the ongoing challenge for retailers when it comes to protecting items during the busy Christmas period.
Last week 110 people were charged with the offence in Sydney and over 70 were charged in Perth as police cracked down on a crime that costs retailers about $1 billion in the lead up to Christmas.
Here’s an insight into opportune Christmas shoplifting and how retailers can better protect their stores.
111 arrested in Sydney
Electronic goods, perfume, clothing, bags and groceries were among the goods police recovered in a three-day operation targeting shoplifting throughout the Sydney region.
Nicknamed Operation Lightfingers, the crackdown saw 111 people charged with 125 offences at areas including Sydney CBD, Surry Hills, Glebe, Ultimo and Bondi.
Redfern Region Enforcement Squad Commander, Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Bell told media outlets the festive season generally saw an increase in customers and could create opportunities for shoplifters.
“Our retailers have already seen an influx of shoppers heading into stores with Christmas less than three weeks away. This busy period can often be seen as an opportunistic time for potential shoplifters while staff members are attending to customers,” Det Ch Insp Bell said.
“We coordinate Operation Lightfingers not only at Christmas but throughout the year, which allows police and retail staff to work together to target possible thieves and send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can steal goods without paying for it.”
71 arrested in Perth
Meanwhile, in Western Australia, a major police sting saw 71 shoplifters arrested in Perth’s CBD last week, including one woman allegedly found with $20,000 worth of stolen goods at her home.
The three-day operation saw undercover officers positioned at eight retailers in the CBD.
The problem by numbers
What retailers can do
Even though holidays and sales periods may see an influx of seasonal workers, all should be screened carefully prior to commencing employment.
New recruits should also be given thorough training in store protocols and customer service techniques. It has been widely reported that the simple act of greeting customers can result in a reduction in theft.
All staff should be given a refresher of the suspicious behaviour that shoplifters are likely to portray, which includes:
- Spending more time watching the cashier or salesperson than actually shopping.
- Wearing bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather or coats when unnecessary.
- Walking with short or unnatural steps, which may indicate that they are concealing stolen items.
- Taking several items into a dressing room and only leaving with one item or none.
- Shoplifters may appear nervous, pick up random items with no interest or be watching for staff rather than shopping
- Frequently entering a store and never making a purchase.
Electronic article surveillance
Electronic article surveillance, comprising security tags, security labels, and detection antenna, remains one of the most widely used and effective means to detect an incidence of theft as it is occurring.
Noted to reduce shoplifting by an estimated 60-80 per cent, the strategy sees tags or labels affixed to merchandise. Tagged or labelled products are constantly monitored by the antenna and should a shoplifter attempt to leave a store with an item, an alarm will sound, alerting staff to potential theft.
Even during busy periods like sales and holidays, store management should use common sense in terms of store layout.
Good lighting plays a role in reducing theft, as does clear visibility of the store and stock. Change rooms should be carefully monitored and/or fitted with technology like the Fittingroom guard.
Meanwhile, management may wish to reconsider the volume of high-value stock they have on the floor, instead opting for a tethered display item, with further stock stored in lockable cabinets or on display racks with stop locks.
Retailers should also resist the urge to locate sales tables too close to the entry where items may be more prone to the snatch technique, which sees shoplifters simply grab an item and run (regardless of whether an alarm sounds).
Security personnel and CCTV
Technology, staff training and good store layout might be the first lines of defence but monitoring also has an important role in loss prevention.
Sales periods and holidays are an ideal time to boost your in-store security presence, while CCTV is a simple and cost-effective way of recording and identifying shoplifting crimes.