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Ease of online selling behind rise in retail theft

A greater ability to sell things online and the ongoing shaky economic climate has led to a global surge in shoplifting and employee theft.

Retail theft, in the year between July 2010 and June 2011, cost Australian retailers more than $1.94 billion, according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer, a study conducted by the UK-based Centre for Retail Research.

Employee theft accounted for almost half of the 2.9 percent jump in shrinkage costs for local retailers, who are already under pressure from decreased sales and revenue.

The most stolen items were shaving products, clothing accessories, perfume and fragrances and alcohol and liqueurs and whiskey.

Checkpoint Systems managing director Mark Gentle believes our love for technology and the growth of online shopping are the main contributors to this increase.

“Against the regional trend, Australian retailers continue to lose more money on employee theft than from shoplifters. Greater accessibility to internet combined with the huge increase in popularity of online retail has made internal theft even more appealing for Aussie employees.”

“Employees are not only stealing for their own use but also to make money. Some retailers have caught single staff members reselling over an astonishing $200,000 worth of stolen stock online.

Victorian Police Crime Prevention Office Senior Constable Glenn McFarlane ascribes to the same belief, saying that “online retail has definitely increased the opportunity for internal theft. There have been a number of cases where employees have been caught selling stolen items online before the product has actually launched in Australia.”

The report found that even though there’s been an overall decrease in retail theft, shrinkage has grown to $112 billion. Countries with declining economies saw a great leap in shrinkage, in comparison to the 2009-2010 period, which had seen a slight rallying in the markets from the Global Financial Crisis.

“The tougher times in 2010/11 have seen retail theft increase at an extraordinary rate across the world. If you become complacent with security, there is an immediate effect in the corresponding theft,” Gentle said.

European retailers hit hardest

After significantly reducing their spend on security, the European markets were hit hardest with an overall 7.85 percent increase in retail theft, with the struggling economies of Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy copping the worst of it.

In comparison, Australia’s economy remains relatively strong but Gentle warns that as we head into more turbulent economic times, the rising cost of commodities such as oil and aluminium will further put retailers to the test.

“There is a clear link between countries suffering economic turmoil and increased shrinkage. We are seeing big swings from shrinkage decreasing one year to stock literally flying off shelves the next. Australia will potentially follow the trend in the next year unless retailers continue to get tougher on the new threats facing its stock.

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Frances Mao

Frances Mao

Frances is a journalism and law student at the University of Technology in Sydney, and one of Dynamic Business' hard-working interns

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