Societal pressures and a sense of entitlement suggest that this Christmas period will be a challenge for retailers to manage theft and customer aggression. The need for continued vigilance and innovative approaches towards retail crime prevention is essential to maximise retail profits and workers’ safety. High foot traffic and crowded stores during this period make it easier for shoplifters to blend in and commit theft. A combination of understaffing and new hires to combat the spike in seaso
asonal shoppers leaves ample opportunity for thieves to go undetected. Common causes of retail theft Economic pressure as a result of inflation is a strong motivator for individuals to commit theft for various reasons including personal use and resale and as a means to alleviate economic burdens. Shoplifting of products that can be sold to fund addiction and substance abuse is another significant driver of retail theft. Behavioural pressure is a dominant reason that young people shoplift popular or valuable items within specific social circles, without much concern or thought towards the legal and moral implications. The perception that theft carries an insignificant risk of prosecution and the belief that businesses can afford the loss, as well as the sense among shoplifters that they are owed something by society, are major contributors to both petty theft and bigger-scale retail crime. Increasing desire for luxury goods and a “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality, highlighted in the digital age and through social media, is the cause for some individuals to simply steal what they can’t afford. Safe to serve not be a victim of violence Violence faced by frontline retail workers has close to doubled in the last few years, having risen by 47 per cent. Retail Drinks Australia (RDA) revealed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of robberies in the country occur in the retail industry, more alarmingly, 54 per cent of these are armed robberies. ‘Safe to Serve’ is a nationwide initiative headed by a coalition of industry voices, businesses and government entities facilitated by the RDA to better protect and support the 75,ooo individuals that make up the industry’s workforce. The initiative aims to ensure liquor stores remain safe, especially during the busy Christmas period by protecting workers and customers. Retail Drinks’ CEO, Micheal Waters, told Inside Retail, “We know criminals are increasingly targeting our liquor stores meaning the staff in our industry are constantly at risk. It’s a challenge we can no longer ignore which is why we are launching Safe to Serve.” “Robberies, violence and assault can have a lasting impact on anyone including a traumatic effect on bystanders and witnesses which is why Safe to Serve is targeted at keeping not only our staff but our customers safe.” As part of the initiative, Retail Drinks has developed an online toolkit with comprehensive resources that includes information on essential topics like working with local police and improving security measures, and will teach staff within the industry how to apply de-escalation principles. Alison McCallum, head of operation risk and protection at Endeavour Group, told Inside retail, “As Australia’s largest retail drinks network, we see every day the impact retail crime has on our team. No one deserves to be threatened or abused, especially at Christmas time.” Gary Starr, executive general manager at Australia Post, told Inside retail, “No delivery driver starts a day of work expecting to be subjected to abuse. Through community awareness, education, and practical resources, the Safe to Serve initiative provides the tools for minimising and managing issues if they do arise.” How to discontinue the five finger discount Professor Michael Townsley, director of the Social Analytics Lab School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, told Inside Retail, “In summary, retail theft is influenced by a complex interplay of personal, economic, and situational factors. Understanding these drivers is essential for retailers and law enforcement agencies to develop targeted strategies to mitigate this issue, particularly during high-risk periods such as the Christmas trading season.” Deterioration in social cohesion is likely to exacerbate crime faced by retailers during the Christmas trading period. The significant cultural and economic importance placed on the festive season intensifies the pressures and expectations faced by individuals and inevitably leads to a statistical increase in retail theft. “I anticipate that customer aggression will remain high for the foreseeable future. The contributing factors to this trend, such as the rising cost of living and a sense of entitlement, have not shown signs of abating. These elements, combined with the broader decline in social cohesion, suggest that retail environments may continue to face challenges related to theft and customer aggression,” Professor Townsley said. Addressing crime with a multifaceted approach Deterring customers from becoming shoplifters requires businesses to adopt a multifaceted approach, balancing prevention with customer experience. Current industry trends suggest increased investment in technology-based and other solutions to prevent theft are a positive step in the right direction. These preventative measures are being noticed by customers and therefore preventing the occurrence of the crime. “Advanced technologies, such as improved surveillance systems, electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags, and sophisticated data analytics, can significantly deter potential thieves. These technologies not only help identify and prevent theft incidents but also serve as a visible reminder to customers that theft prevention measures are in place, potentially deterring them from attempting theft,” Professor Townsley said. Offenders boast how they can easily circumvent existing security, this highlights the importance of ensuring there are no easy opportunities for potential perpetrators. The need for continuous evaluation and improvement of retailer’s security systems, to stay ahead of sophisticated offenders is needed. “While it is necessary to have consequences for theft to deter potential offenders, most studies of offender decision-making suggest that the risk of being apprehended carries significantly more weight than the anticipated sanction. We obviously need to highlight the level of punishment for deterrence purposes, but there is very little evidence that sanctions by themselves are effective in deterring crime,” Professor Townsley said. Charity the target of online Christmas scams It’s unfortunate that scammers are using charity and known organisations as a means to profit from the holidays, and data suggests that $3.1 billion dollars has been lost by Australians through scams in the last year. Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner Sue Woodward, told Inside Retail,“There were hundreds of reports of fake charity scams to Scamwatch, but we know it is likely that significantly under-represents the actual incidence.” Woodward recommends that if consumers receive a text, email or phone call asking for a donation to charity, not to click the link, and not to share their name or banking details, instead go to Charity Register and legitimise the organisation behind the call to action. “Charities need our support now more than ever. They are contending with cost of living pressures and many are also responding to increased demand. At this time of year, we think of those that provide free meals, as well as those that deliver housing and mental health services, but there are many more being impacted,” Woodward said.“When you donate to a registered charity, you can see key data such as its financial information, who is running it, how much it relies on volunteers and the kind of work it does. This provides transparency about where its funding comes from, and the way funds are used. You can be confident your donation is going to people in need, or to the particular cause you would like to support,” Woodward said.