The Alarming Rise of Shoplifting in Retail, in early 2024


Areas marked for high shoptheft

The retail industry is facing a crisis. Since COVID struck, we have seen shoplifting incidents rising across Australia. This threatens the livelihoods of retail and undermines the safety of our communities. This surge should alert retailers, law enforcement, and industry bodies alike to clarify that urgent action is needed.

The Sobering Reality: Staggering Statistics

Here are some statistics from Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency in their latest report.

Shoplifting offences had increased in the 12 months to September by 7308, or 27.9 per cent, to 26,229 – the highest on record.

I found some figures for some other states here

This is a summary of the stark picture:

  • Victoria: Shoplifting offences increased 27.9% in just 12 months, reaching 26,229 incidents—an all-time high.
  • Western Australia: Shoplifting is up over 40% compared to last year, significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
  • New South Wales: A 36.1% surge in offences totalling 27,015, surpassing figures from previous years.
  • Queensland: Shoplifting incidents were consistently higher in 2023 than in any month of the past two decades.
  • South Australia: A shocking 31% increase in offences, with 17,572 cases recorded.

I just got some figures from the United Kingdom. 

Their figures mirror this trend, with a 37% jump in offences, the highest since records began in 2003.

The Root of the Problem: More Than Just Cost of Living

In my experience, while the rising living costs may contribute, but the erosion of law enforcement also plays a significant role in fueling this shoplifting epidemic.

Your Bottom Line: Understanding Shrinkage

The critical first step for any retailer is understanding your "shrinkage." This is the gap between the inventory you should have and what you have. Shrinkage is caused by:

  • Shoplifting
  • Employee theft
  • Errors & paperwork mistakes
  • Spoilage & damage

Calculating Shrinkage:

  1. Full Formula: (Starting Inventory) + (Purchases) - (Sales) * (1-Profit Margin) - (Ending Inventory) = Shrinkage
  2. Quick Estimate: (Purchases) - (Sales) * (1-Profit Margin) = Approx. Shrinkage
  3. Shoplifting Rule of Thumb: Roughly 1/3 of shrinkage is often due to shoplifting.

Why Calculate?

  • Awareness: Forces you to face the actual impact on your business.
  • Targets Prevention: Is it specific items? A problem aisle? Numbers guide solutions.
  • Measure Improvement: Did your new security measures reduce shrinkage?

Make a planogram for shoplifting.

This tells you the extent of the problem by quantifying current shrinkage levels and identifying problem areas. Drawing problem planograms in the shop of the problem places helps a lot.

Planogram of the shop

A picture is worth a thousand words.

This image could be a planogram of your shop with your problem areas marked.

The information is available from your stocktake figures.

Blue = Good

Yellow = Moderate to bad

Red = Very bad

blank = Zero

See how it visually shows the problem areas.

Detail on how to do it are available here.

YOUR Business Defense Checklist

The fight against shoplifting demands a comprehensive approach:

  • Staff are Key: Train employees to spot shoplifters, intervene safely, and understand protocol.
  • Technology as Ally: Invest in modern security systems, such as cameras, anti-theft tags, and data analytics to spot patterns.
  • Eyes on the Floor: Redesign aisles for visibility and remove blind spots where thieves hide. Do a simple experiment: walk around your shop and imagine you are a shoplifter. Now, where do you strike?
  • Draw a map of your shop: Mark the places with the highest shoplifting. Details above.
  • Never Stop Learning: Shoplifting tactics evolve; look up YouTube as many shoplifters explain how they do it. 

Calculate Your Shrinkage Now

The fight against shoplifting is an ongoing battle for the soul of our retail sector. By understanding your losses and acting decisively, you protect not only your own business but the well-being of your entire community. Let's stand together to make our stores safer and our businesses stronger and reclaim a sense of security for everyone.

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