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Australia’s retailers are being warned to brace for a Christmas crime wave, with more than a third of shoplifting thefts predicted to happen during the holiday season.
While most retailers will make 30 percent of their sales at Christmas time, they can also expect to be hit with 35 percent of their losses due to theft, research shows.
Seasoned thieves taking advantage of busy stores and staff rushed off their feet often played a part in the crime spike over Christmas, Criminologist Emmeline Taylor told nine.com.au.
But it was also families feeling the financial pinch of Christmas that contributed to the rise of petty crime, she said.
“There’s a lot of pressure to provide those luxury items for friends and family and so there is a spike in fresh meat, seafood, cheese, and alcohol being stolen over Christmas,” Dr Taylor, who specialises in retail crime, said.
“Also small, relatively expensive, but easily concealed items such as batteries are also stolen more frequently.”
Professional thieves will often target luxury gift items, such as beauty gift sets or branded toys, Dr Taylor said.
“They will steal luxury items and then quickly sell them online at a discounted price, whereas otherwise honest customers might find these new items too hard to resist or struggle to make the weekly budget extend to include them over the holiday season.”
Thieves often dealt with the guilt associated with their actions by offering certain excuses, Dr Taylor said.
“They will say things like ‘the retailers can afford it’, ’it’s not like I hurt anybody’ and ‘I spend so much in that store throughout the year’.”
“But this is not a victimless crime as many thieves try and convince themselves – the cost is ultimately passed on to honest customers who will see a price hike to cover the losses.”
Checkpoint Systems works closely with both Australia's major supermarket chains to protect their stores from losses or theft.
Australian retailers needed to make stepping up their security measures at Christmas time a priority, the company’s general manager of sales and operations, Nick Trudgett, said.
“Retailers need to evaluate their security solutions in technology and human form as a matter of urgency in the lead up to Christmas,” he said.
While stores used to favour the more subtle approach to security, such as concealing anti-theft tags on products, research and statistics had shown that visual deterrents for thieves tended to be more effective, he said.
And sometimes it was the human touch that made all the difference.
“Along with tagging items, we recommend that stores ensure the floor is appropriately staffed. Store personnel need to greet and make eye contact with every customer that comes into store. This, along with visibly tagged products, will put off potential opportunistic shoplifters.”