Irish shop workers are the worst shoplifters. Light-fingered retail staff are helping themselves to €167m in goods and cash a year, the worst rate in Europe, a global survey has found.
While Ireland ranked 11th out of 22 countries in Europe for shoplifting, it was worst for employee theft, according to the research by the UK’s Centre for Retail Research.
Its report surveyed 21 retailers in Ireland with a total of 358 stores, and estimates that all Irish shops lost €453m, or 1.38% of annual sales, from what the industry describes as “shrinkage” — stock losses from crime or waste expressed as a percentage of retail sales.
Employee theft accounted for 36.8% of shrinkage in Ireland, the highest rate in Europe. While retailers estimated that shoplifters were responsible for 40.6% of their losses and stole €183.9m worth of items, thefts by shop workers cost €166.7m. Across Europe, the average amount stolen by dishonest employees was 19.8 times higher than that snatched by shoplifters.
“It’s a sector where people can be unhappy because it’s hard and thankless work with low pay,” said Rowan Manahan, managing director of Fortify Services, a human-resources consultancy. “People in Ireland are not always particularly pleasant to shop assistants.
“But it’s also been said that the Irish have a delinquent gene and there could be the feeling that if solicitors and politicians are on the make, then why not.”
The proportion of Irish retailers experiencing shoplifting over the 12-month period increased by 39%. The recession is causing more crime in a sector already suffering from a slump in consumer demand, with Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures indicating that retailers experienced a 10% slump in sales in September from a year earlier.
Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research and author of the study, said: “People are stealing more household items, such as bread and cheese, and retailers caught all sorts of people who’d never shoplifted before and were older and better dressed. Shoplifters looking to sell on goods take what’s in demand, of high value and easily sold on, such as razor blades, electronic books, perfume, cosmetics and Satnavs.
“Because music is relatively cheap now, they are concentrating on Blu-ray DVDs and DVD box sets of television series. This is even truer in the run-up to Christmas.”
Torlach Denihan, director of Retail Ireland, believes the increase in shoplifting is part of a wider trend of petty crime spurred by the recession. The gardai recorded 5,083 incidents of theft from shops during the third quarter of this year, up 13% from the first quarter of 2006, the peak of the boom.
The losses incurred by shops as a result of theft is equivalent to a tax on every Irish household of €348.91 a year, Bamfield said. “I don’t think our moral compass is any weaker than anyone else’s and the vast majority of employees are as honest as the day is long,” Denihan said. “Offences involving dishonesty are up and that’s a response to the recession. There are organised shoplifting gangs. But because of cumbersome rules of evidence, it’s challenging for the gardai to secure convictions. If there was greater willingness to convict, we could start to tackle it.”