Supermarkets try to curtail losses from shoplifting

Suppliers and retailers are about to hold a belated round of talks in search of more effective ways to combat shoplifting, a longstanding problem facing supermarkets. Thefts are estimated to cost domestic retail businesses some dozens of million euros each year. On a European level, losses from theft amount to some -180 million in annual turnover. Should retail and industry effectively reduce such losses by, for example, 50 percent, they would immediately see profits rise by 30 percent, sector officials suggest. The so-called «hot items» mostly preferred by shoplifters, are those whose price is inversely proportionate to their size, e.g. cosmetics and shaving gadgets – with a particular preference for Gillette products. However, the hot items list also includes drinks. According to one recent report, a customer is said to have been found carrying an incredible 12 bottles under a heavy, special-pocketed coat. Many supermarkets have responded by placing the empty package of a product on shelves, which means consumers have to contact an assistant to get the actual product. In the local market, it is estimated that shoplifting represents 2 percent of annual turnover and many businesses spend considerable amounts to curb the phenomenon. It is interesting to note that retail businesses believe they are better off not selling some products at all, as the rate of theft may be up to 30 percent on some items. It follows that certain suppliers are having problems with their sales, as their products have been found in practice to be especially susceptible to shoplifting, and as such are excluded from shelves. Another protection method is to put high-risk products inside locked display cases, which means that an employee has to attend for the consumer to get a product, but this «takes away the spontaneous element in shopping,» according to Aristidis Panteliadis, Metro supermarket chain managing director. In addition, fearing shoplifting-related losses, businesses may even consider not carrying certain new product categories altogether, such as CDs and accessories. The local branch of Efficient Consumer Response (ECR), an organization established by suppliers and retailers around Europe to deal with common problems, recently placed shoplifting on its agenda for the next two to three years. Members of a working group that was set up to examine ways of minimizing thefts in Greece believe the first results will be apparent in six months’ time. A recent ECR meeting in Milan heard that efforts to deal with shoplifting in the past eight years have helped businesses save some -620 million from thefts at retail stores. According to ECR data, the overall losses suffered by the entire supply chain is up to 2.3 percent, which translates into -18 billion in total. It has been observed that shoplifting is often not linked to immoral customers or rundown districts, but rather to ineffective management. Recent data shows that many European businesses have successfully dealt with the problem of shoplifting mainly through measures such as proper shelf layout and improved packaging fitted with advanced anti-theft devices.

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