Sharp increase in shoplifting amid inflation spike; supermarkets are struggling with losses

Dutch supermarkets have noticed a significant increase in shoplifting in the past year, when inflation rose to over 10 percent. A recent study by the financial retail specialist Marshoek shows that in 2022 an average of 66,300 euros worth of products per supermarket was taken without payment. That is a remarkable increase of 20,000 euros compared to the previous year when inflation was below 3 percent. The sector as a whole is faced with an additional cost item of 70 million euros.

The research, which included more than 300 supermarkets in its analysis, suggests that the rise in shoplifting cannot be separated from high inflation. According to researcher Richard Kievit, fresh products such as potatoes, vegetables, fruit and bread are the most frequent targets of theft. The total amount of stolen goods increased partly due to the higher prices of the stolen products compared to the previous year.

Self-scan

Self-checkout systems, an increasingly common phenomenon in supermarkets, appear to be fueling theft, the report says. Kievit adds that despite the benefits of the self-scan, the sharp increase in thefts is becoming worrying.

Shopkeepers are struggling to get the situation under control. Henry Hubers, owner of the Coop supermarket in Vinkel, recently invested 6,000 euros in the installation of fourteen cameras to better monitor activities in the store. But he remains skeptical of its effectiveness against shoplifting.

Hubers expresses his frustration at the increase in thefts and the problems it causes, on top of rising energy costs, wages and rent. He emphasizes that increasing product prices to cover the losses is not an option and expresses his hope for a better year.

Wirner van Aanholt, owner of the Jumbo in Gorinchem, notes that shoplifting is also a challenge in his store, despite the implementation of a new camera system to detect suspicious behavior. He emphasizes that while shoplifting is a challenge, there are many aspects of the business that are going well and that he trusts the majority of customers to remain honest.

Need for prevention

Marshoek’s research highlights the growing problem of shoplifting, which looks set to be exacerbated by rising inflation in 2022. It highlights the need for supermarkets to implement robust prevention strategies while keeping prices affordable for consumers.

Despite the challenges, entrepreneurs remain resilient and look for innovative solutions to combat shoplifting. Hubers’ recent investment in surveillance cameras and Van Aanholt’s new camera system that detects suspicious behavior are some of the steps being taken to turn the tide.

The role of self-scanning systems, which were mentioned in the study as possibly promoting theft, is also examined. Kievit indicates that the increasing use of self-scan and the associated thefts are a growing problem.

More than just financial loss

The impact of shoplifting extends beyond financial damage. It also creates a negative atmosphere for both owners and employees. According to Van Aanholt, the confrontation with theft and the negative aspects of self-scan causes unrest among the staff. Nevertheless, Van Aanholt emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive focus. He acknowledges the challenges, but points out that many things are still going well in his shop and that the majority of customers are honest.

Faced with a continuing wave of inflation and increasing thefts, supermarkets continue to adapt to protect their businesses and ensure continuity of service to their customers. As they battle these issues, hope for a better year remains a common sentiment among affected entrepreneurs.

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