Australia: Record retail theft puts pressure on supermarket giants

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Retail theft in Australia has hit record levels, the government statistics show, putting pressure on grocery giants like Coles Group Ltd (COL.AX) and Woolworths Group Ltd (WOW.AX) which are already struggling with rising supply costs and freight blockages.

Store theft in New South Wales rose by 23.7 per cent from 2021 to 2022, the official figures showed on Thursday, being the fastest year-on-year increase since records began in the year 1995, Reuters reported. 

Watch | Australia: Cost of living, interest rates surge | Global Inflation

Australia’s third-largest state, Queensland this January had the highest monthly rate of shop theft on record, the police data showed. 

Analysts and social researchers are raising concerns that surging living costs, from grocery shelf prices to rising power bills to mortgages, will not only drive up crime in the country but will also have an impact on profits at market giants Woolworths and Coles, which together sum up two-thirds of Australia’s grocery sales and noticed rising store theft in trading last month.

A retail analyst Craig Woolford said, “we would see a risk that that continues to rise if and when we start to see an increase in unemployment and tougher economic conditions.” He added that supermarkets run on very thin or small profit margins and one only needs a small change in the stock loss to have an impact on the profitability. 

Matt Swindells, Cole’s Chief Operating Officer said that since the company was experiencing “elevated theft,” it is now investing in staff training and technology to counter it.

(with inputs from agencies)

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