In the past four years Australian retailers have lost more than $10.311 billion to thieves, according to the fourth annual edition of the Global Retail Theft Barometer.

The study, sponsored by an independent grant from Checkpoint Systems, monitored the costs of shrinkage in the global retail industry between July 2009 and June 2010, and found that shrinkage decreased for the first time in all regions surveyed. Shrinkage in Australia over the last 12 months decreased by 7.3 per cent to 1.39 per cent of total sales, following three years of growth peaking with shrinkage of 1.5 per cent in 2009.

Mark Gentle, Checkpoint Systems Australia managing director, said that the sharp rise in shrinkage in 2009 has evidently placed loss prevention issues high on the agenda of the major retail corporations with beneficial results in 2010.

“Retailer spending on loss prevention and security increased by 9.3 per cent over 2009, to $30.82 billion globally. The results of the Global Retail Theft Barometer indicate that retailers are seeing the positive correlation between investing in specialist security equipment such as electronic article surveillance (EAS), secure merchandising products and additional employee training.”

The research revealed that lipsticks (2.86 per cent), shaving products (2.75 per cent), fragrances (2.41 per cent), infant formula (2.07 per cent) and clothing (1.88 per cent) were the top five most stolen items in Australia.

“The Global Retail Theft Barometer shows a link between increased spending on loss prevention and decreased retail theft. However, although we have entered a period of more financial certainty, extensive psychological studies show that stealing is not predominantly based on meeting a dire financial need but one of a psychological nature. This is evident when you look at the results between North America and Australasia – two polar performing economies, with a similar profile on retail theft," Jacqueline Saad, a psychologist with nine years of experience consulting to organisations and individuals, said.

“Studies show shoplifting can become an addiction as it draws the individual to the activity repeatedly due to the “high” and excitement that accompanies the crime. As such, despite increased security controls thieves will move to less secure product lines and retailers; retailers will need to lift their game to ensure ongoing significant decreases in retail theft.”