In trade, everything that is not nailed down is stolen

In trade, everything that is not nailed down is stolen

Whether it’s razor blades, perfume or designer jeans, "anything that isn’t nailed down is still stolen in retail," complains frank horst, security expert at the coln-based retail research institute EHI.

In 2018 alone, losses in the retail sector totaled around 3.75 billion euros, according to the EHI – an increase of around seven percent on the previous year. In addition, robberies by thieving customers, thieves among the company’s own employees, and crooks among suppliers or service staff were also contributing factors.

The lowen share was due to thefts by customers. "On every sales day, the german retail sector suffers losses of almost 7.7 million euros due to customer theft," according to the study published on tuesday. This amounts to almost 2.4 billion euros a year. In addition, there were employee thefts worth an estimated one billion euros in 2018. A further 350 million euros in theft of goods is said to be attributable to suppliers and service personnel.

Gangs organized on a commercial basis are playing an increasingly large role in shoplifting. Around a quarter of all crimes are now attributed to gang theft and organized crime, the authors write. According to crime statistics, serious shoplifting has increased more than two-and-a-half-fold in the past twelve years, while the number of reported shoplifting incidents has been falling for years.

However, the significance of these figures is limited due to the high dark figure of 98 percent, the retail experts from coln emphasized. According to EHI projections, almost 24 million shoplifters go undetected every year.

According to the study, goods worth between 1,000 and 2,000 euros are usually stolen in a single robbery. There is often a precise distribution of tasks between the gang members involved: for example, observing and distracting the sales staff, assembling the stolen goods in "depots" or carrying the goods out of the store and securing the escape routes.

Almost two-thirds of the suspects identified are male, according to police statistics. The proportion of foreigners is above average and the proportion of multiple offenders is around 60 percent, the EHI reported. Almost one in ten suspected shoplifters caught was under the influence of hard drugs at the time of the crime.

Almost nothing is safe from thieves. "The general rule is that what sells well is often stolen," says the EHI study. In the food retail sector, spirits are the top item in the theft ranking. Perfumes and cosmetics are particularly popular in drugstores. In the fashion trade, high-value brand-name clothing, jeans and sneakers are stolen particularly frequently. In the electronics trade, customers like to steal console games, smartphones and memory cards, while in DIY stores, cordless screwdrivers and other tools are the first choice.

In the fight against shoplifters, retailers are relying above all on training their employees. Four out of five companies also use cameras and video technology to monitor their sales areas. In well over half of the companies, at least parts of the goods are also electronically secured. Almost half of the companies also use detectives to track down thieves.

Despite the billions in damage, companies are not at all dissatisfied with their success in the fight against theft. In the EHI survey, more than 60 percent rated their inventory discrepancies as acceptable or better. Only one in twelve companies rated the situation as "strongly improvable".

It is unlikely that shoplifting will become less of an issue in the coming years. Although retailers have stepped up their investments to prevent shoplifting in recent years, the study says. At the same time, however, the extended store opening hours mean that there is less staff available to supervise the area, which in turn makes it easier to commit the crime.

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