The National Retail Association (NRA) is urging retailers to be vigilant when it comes to shoplifting raids from thieving customers acting as a Christmas Grinch during the festive season.

NRA Manager of Industry Policy David Stout said the busy Christmas period leaves retailers vulnerable to shoplifters and that it was vital that they’re equipped to combat organised or opportunistic crime.

“Christmas is a critical time of year for retailers, so it’s important that owners and staff remain steadfastly vigilant towards shoplifters looking to raid their store like a Christmas Grinch,” Mr Stout said.

“This is particularly true for those selling highly sought-after merchandise, such as electronics or the season’s hottest toys. These businesses can find themselves heavily targeted during this period.

“To be clear, the overwhelming majority of shoppers are hard-working, honest people who only ever do the right thing. We are talking about a very small fraction of people here and although they are small in numbers, the damage and inconvenience they can cause to a small business is sizeable.”

Of the $315 billion in sales annually, the NRA’s research estimates the impact of retail crime to be around $3 billion each year, when the cost of replacement stock, lost output and property damage are taken into account.

“The industry is seeing increasing crime in every jurisdiction across Australia, we are very concerned that police resourcing is simply not keeping pace with the volume and sophistication of retail crime.”

“Retail crime doesn’t just cost retailers financially, it is now the biggest single trigger for violence and verbal abuse against retailers and their staff. NRA research concludes that 90% of retailers have reported a significant increase in violent and aggressive behaviour and staff should not be faced with these threats while doing their job.”

Mr Stout urged business owners to to take the time to properly train staff on how to keep an eye out for thieves and what procedure to follow if they identify a shoplifter, particularly casual employees who were brought on specifically for the Christmas trading period.

“A prominent staff presence is a key area that can help deter would-be shoplifters – this includes measures such as visible CCTV, and making the store layout is as open as possible.

“We strongly urge retailers to report any acts of theft – no matter how big or small – to police so that both law enforcement and the industry can get a more accurate reflection of the scope of the issue,” Mr Stout said.

“Only 1 in every 100 incidents of retail crime gets reported to the authorities – we need to dramatically increase this reporting rate, so police can deploy the relevant resources in the future. No matter how big or small the crime, during the Christmas period it is critical that business owners take the time to notify the police.”