Media Releases

Sobering report shows escalating scale of retail crime in New Zealand

4 October 2023

Retail NZ has issued a desperate plea for Government to join forces with retailers to reduce the rapidly escalating retail crime wave after new research unveiled the annual cost to be well over $2.5 billion.

“The aggression, violence and general crime in our shops is getting worse each day, as increasingly brazen and organised criminals are putting the public and retail employees in imminent danger,” says Retail NZ Chief Executive Carolyn Young.

“We can no longer stand by and watch a small section in our society destroy the livelihoods of the families who literally put their lives on the line to build their retail business,” says Young after her organisation today released their Retail Crime Position Statement (LINK), which pinpoints the key problems, the impact of retail crime and a series of realistic solutions.

The position statement is based on the sobering research by Retail NZ, which shows that 92% of retailers have experienced some form of retail crime in the past 12 months, with increased risk of physical injuries and even death severely impacting the mental health of employees and owners, as well as the ability to attract new staff.

“Retailers are more often dealing with threatening, violent or just unpleasant customers, trying to steal or damage their property,” explains Young, who adds that organised crime groups stealing to order, drug addicts and youngsters looking for notoriety on social media are the main drivers behind the spike in retail crime.

“What makes it worse is that most of them think they can get away with it, treat retail workers like second-class citizens and have no understanding how their actions impact the staff and the business.”

Young says that retailers identified the social-economic gap as a major factor, along with the lack of police protection, the clogged-up court system and inadequate deterrents for offenders.

“There is a role for retailers, Retail NZ and the Government to curb this rising tide of crime and call on the political parties elected to adequately resource police, unclog the court systems and create better deterrents, like the trespass laws used in the UK,” says Young.

Retail NZ hopes the next Government will also develop more effective mechanisms to respond to younger children committing crimes, creating instant fines for petty offences and specific offences against retail workers.

Young says the onus will also be on the retail sector to help themselves and the Government is one of three partners in the battle against crime.

She explains how Retail NZ will take the lead in creating better partnerships with the New Zealand Police and other agencies, drive sector-wide solutions like facial recognition and number plate technology, run public awareness campaigns and develop training modules for retailers.

“And of course retailers themselves are already taking many steps to protect themselves, their customers and their business.”

Retail NZ encourages retailers to train their staff for emergencies, create stronger links with local police, review all their security systems like cameras and barriers and make sure they provide efficient staff support if an incident occurs.

“Retailers are fighting for their livelihood, in many cases literally, so we plead with the Government to step up and give them to support to protect the retail sector. 

“If we continue to stand by, the pain and the costs will keep increasing and that cost will flow onto the customers and ultimately the New Zealand economy.”

Access Retail NZ Retail Crime Report 2023 here.

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