We are the World’s Heaviest Shoplifters

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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Here’s one more to the list of things that India tops in but alas isn’t really a plaudit: we have more shoplifting than any other country in the world. A worldwide survey called Global Retail Theft Barometer 2010, conducted by the UK’s Centre for Retail Research, has found for the second year in a row that Indian retail outlets lose the most to shoplifting.

The study was done in 42 countries and details were provided by 1,103 large retailers. On an average, retailers globally lost 1.36 per cent of their sales to theft or administrative error (together called shrinkage). In India, however, it was 2.72 per cent. Which means that for every Rs 1 crore a retailer earned in sales, Rs 2.72 lakh went missing. With a retailer’s profitability in India usually being 10 per cent at most, a 2.72 per cent loss is a substantial hit.

The study was funded by Checkpoint Systems, a US-based company specialising in reducing retail theft. Dharmesh Lamba, country manager, Checkpoint, attributes the high retail theft to a cultural shift in shopping. “We grew up with over-the- counter sales, and suddenly there’s open merchandise on display. Shoplifting probably happens on an impulsive basis. Shoplifting and employee theft together contribute close to 73-74 per cent of the shrinkage,” he says.

If it’s any consolation, the percentage of shrinkage in India has come down from 3.2 per cent last year to 2.72 in 2010. Lamba thinks the drop is due to the recession forcing retailers to adopt systems which reduce theft and error.

In the current survey, Brazil stood a distant second to India at 1.64 per cent, while Taiwan was at the bottom with 0.87 per cent.