Shrinkage violates: retailers fail to stem shoplifting losses

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Retailers are being criticised for failing to fight shoplifting, despite the millions spent every year on security technologies.

According to research carried out by Ernst & Young, retailers suffered from an "inconsistent" approach to security and "lax staff behaviour".

"Despite significant investment in security devices such as cameras, monitors and product tagging, this technology is not being used effectively," said Tim Sleep, director of retail at Ernst & Young.

According to the most recent annual crime survey by the British Retail Consortium, published last October, retailers spent £710m fighting all forms of crime in 2004, bringing the total spend over five years to £3.58bn.

"Poor in-store staff behaviour is also creating a shoplifter-friendly environment," said Mr Sleep. "Attentive and alert store personnel are one of the best deterrents to theft, yet staff are usually more focused on replenishing stock or manning the tills."

However, the BRC has hit back at the E&Y survey. A spokesman said that its own research highlighted increased spending on anti-crime measure and a reduction in losses as a result.

"There are two key concerns that retailers have. The first is that they are increasingly subjected to violence when criminal acts take place. The second is police response times. They want full support from the police, but ... local police forces don't always treat crime against retailers with the priority they should."

The E&Y survey of 69 high street stores from all sectors found widespread inconsistency in the use of surveillance technology and that merchandise and signs blocking the view of security cameras were "a significant problem for supermarkets, health and beauty retailers and department stores".

Alex Reeves, a "shrinkage" specialist at E&Y, said: "Retailers are struggling to pinpoint where the losses are occurring, whether it's from customers, staff or even administrative weakness.""Consequently, they don't know which are the most appropriate measures to use."

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