Retail crime is up by almost 25 per cent: Here’s how you can keep your business safe

- March 16, 2023 2 MIN READ


With worsening economic conditions continuing, should we be at all surprised that the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has revealed a 23.7 per cent increase in retail theft year on year? But is it just battlers doing it tough resorting to desperate measures? Or something more sinister at play?

According to Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, the answer lies in a little of both.

Speaking with Deborah Jones on 2GB, Zahra commented: “I think there are a lot of people hurting. Cost of living pressures are unfortunately driving people to crime. And that’s the biggest difference we’ve seen post-COVID. Retail and retailers are in a permanent state of disruption since COVID and this is exacerbating their struggles.”

While Zahra suggests the rise in retail theft goes across the board, impacting both big and small businesses, he suggests big retailers are better equipped to deal with the issue.

“Bigger retailers can afford to invest in overt and covert security and technology – but the small Ma and Pa shops can’t. So small business hurts more because they have tighter margins and they can’t invest in the technology to solve these problems.”

Organised retail crime on the rise

Zahra says the statistics are also showing a shift away from opportunistic crimes to organised crime, with professional shoplifters coming to the fore. Big ticket items are most targeted for theft.

“For department stores it’s generally small, higher value items like personal accessories, jewellery and electronics,” he said. “If they’re on-selling it, then it’s another reason to go for a higher priced item.”

Beyond employing more security staff and increasing surveillance, Zahra says businesses are also turning to EAS (electronic article surveillance) and RF ID which tags, tracks and identifies products, making it difficult for thieves to return stolen goods for monetary gain.

In response to the increasing crime stats, the ARA has launched the Retail Crime Advisory Committee to assist business owners to stay up to date with information on the issues.

Zahra says retail crime is a vital area of focus and advocacy for the ARA and the organisation has launched the Retail Crime Resource Hub to help the retail community. This site features tips and advice to prevent and respond to common types of retail crimes.

Retail crime costs Aussie retailers billions of dollars every year. And this cost doesn’t include the flow-on effects that come with loss of time spent responding to the crime, or the stress and other mental health impacts of witnessing a criminal event.

You can check out the retail Crime Resource Hub here.

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