Retailers are to be hit for an expected €51m over Christmas as a result of shoplifting, with electronic goods like tablets, smartphones and games the most popular targets for thieves.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has warned retailers to be extra vigilant, stating they are twice as likely to be the victims of shoplifting over the festive period.
The group said the direct cost of shoplifting to retailers this year will be in excess of €230m, of which €51m will occur at Christmas alone. ISME pointed out that this does not take into account the amount spent on security, which adds hundreds of millions on to the cost for shops. It is estimated that shoplifting alone adds up to 3% to the price of products.
ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said just over half of all retail outlets will be targeted by shoplifters over Christmas, with most being hit more than once.
“Criminals see the Christmas period as the ideal opportunity, with larger crowds in stores, more stock on shelves and an increase in temporary staff, who may not have the experience to identify shoplifters. We have seen an increase in organised retail crime gangs who move from shop to shop and town to town, ‘stealing to order’,” he said.
Mr Fielding said electronic goods like tablets, smartphones and games, and cosmetics, clothing and food products were the most common things stolen at Christmas. ISME have called for harsher penalties to be imposed on organised retail crime gangs.
“The association is calling for an increased Garda presence in the main commercial and shopping centres over Christmas, together with swift court action to deter retail crime and jail the offenders, rather than the revolving door policy of prior years, which had the perpetrators back on the streets to re-offend at the New Year sales,” said Mr Fielding.
Recently RGDATA, the group representing independent family-owned grocery shops and convenience stores, published a study which found only 25% of retail crime perpetrators were prosecuted and convicted in the last year. That study also found a five-month jail sentence was the most severe penalty for the crimes, but only 5% of those convicted were given jail sentences.
It wants the reformation of the penalty system to include stronger use of custodial sentences, a minimum term for robberies involving violence against a retailer and greater powers for judges to issue exclusion orders on persistent offenders.
Last week, a District Court judge in Mullingar, Judge Seamus Hughes, said shoplifting was now reaching epidemic levels and the system is “an absolute joke” because there is no effective deterrent.
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