Tough economic times mean retailers are exposed to a greater likelihood of theft, warns the Australian Retailers Association chief
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, told the AJP today that normally theft across the retail industry in general sits at about 3% of turnover… but it’s currently rising.
He was commenting on revelations by Nine News that theft of cosmetics is becoming “rampant”.
Nine spoke to pharmacy owner Kei Lim who said that skincare and makeup were being stolen from his pharmacy almost daily.
Another pharmacist, Daniel Cheesbrough, said he faced losses of up to $50,000.
It’s a sign of a tougher economic environment, Mr Zimmerman says.
“When the economy gets tough, that 3% goes up, when it’s booming, it goes down – you can actually pick it,” he told the AJP.
“If you talk to the fuel providers, they’ll tell you that they get more drive-throughs, people taking off without paying, when things are tough; that figure’s always underlying, but it shoots up and down.
“Theft is around $7 or $8 billion across the retail industry. You’re not going to get much theft in pharmacy from behind the counter – you’re more likely to get break-ins there – but in terms of actual retail theft, you’re more likely to find it in particular items like lipstick, small cosmetic items and perfume, if they can get hold of it.
“Most pharmacies that I see these days put their high-quality aftershave and perfume under lock and key, but where they don’t you’ll find higher theft.
“There’s a couple of interesting other things – if a pharmacy has got baby food and times are tough, there’s a spike in that. Razor blades are huge, and batteries. Theft of sanitary items goes up a bit.
“Basically anything that’s small, relatively expensive and that people want to try and save on a household bill, that they think they can get away with not paying for.”
Most items are slipped into a pocket or handbag discreetly as the thief goes past a shelf, he says.
And pharmacists and workers shouldn’t assume that a smaller handbag won’t have goods stashed into it.
“If they have a big bag, they’ll often know they’ll get searched, but a smaller one, that’s less likely,” Mr Zimmerman warns.
Items which have RFID tags applied to them are often taken out of boxes, and the RFID tag left behind on the shelf with the box, he says. Retailers in some channels, such as home improvement, are finding some suppliers now provide packaging which is very difficult to open, as a result.
He says that the “mum and dad” feel and professional services offered by some pharmacies may help insulate them to some degree from theft, compared to larger, less personal price-oriented chains.
“Mum and dad pharmacies often end up being service oriented, so there’s people on the floor to say, ‘hello, how are you, can I help you’ and you may feel intimidated by that, as a person about to try and thieve something.
“There’s eyes everywhere. Whereas in a big pharmacy you’re probably relying on cameras to get them, so if they’re smart about it they can avoid detection.”
He says that pharmacies which believe they have a theft problem need to conduct an audit of their business to determine the best way to approach the issue.
“Maybe one is to use RFID tags and put electronic gates up – put cameras up, or dummy cameras up, just being careful how you place them, as there’s places you can’t, such as directly over a pinpad where you can see somebody entering a pin.”