Shoplifting a 'scourge' for Marlborough retailers: 'We do take it personally'

Bed Bath and Beyond employees, from left, Christine MacDonald, Annie Cox and Michelle Raynel get upset when people ...
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Bed Bath and Beyond employees, from left, Christine MacDonald, Annie Cox and Michelle Raynel get upset when people shoplift because they put so much effort into the store.

Retailers say shoplifters are a scourge on Blenheim's town centre as the problem shows no sign of easing.

At least 34 shoplifters have appeared at the Blenheim District Court this year already.

Bed Bath and Beyond store manager Christine MacDonald said it was common knowledge central Blenheim had a problem with shoplifters.

"We do take it personally. We work really hard to keep this shop, but it's just ongoing. When someone invades your store and takes your stuff, you do get a bit sensitive."

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Her staff noticed shoplifting regularly. The most recent was a middle-aged woman who walked out of the store with an umbrella she did not pay for on Monday.

MacDonald and Blenheim police had taught staff some tips to deter shoplifters, such as having low displays, greeting customers and keeping an eye on them.

"But it is hard if you're busy with someone. You can be as vigilant as you like, but they're smarter than you, and more practiced."

One woman was trespassed from the store for repeatedly shoplifting, and police gave retailers information on people actively shoplifting in the town centre.

Other Bed Bath and Beyond stores around the country had security guards, but the Blenheim store did not suffer enough loss to warrant an extra employee, MacDonald said.

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Community constable Russ Smith said shoplifting was a problem in Blenheim, but it was a common problem in most places around the country.

"Blenheim police are aware of some local people who are deliberate and intentional in their attempts to shoplift."

Shoplifters were motivated by a variety of factors, including mental health issues, desperation and greed.

"In all my years in policing, there doesn't seem to be a stereotype. They could be businessmen in suits, housewives, young people, tourists."

The Warehouse, on Redwood St, and Pak 'n Save, at Westwood, caught more offenders than any other retailer in Marlborough this year.

The Warehouse took 18 shoplifters to court this year, and Pak 'n Save took 10.

Larger stores had more shoplifters because there were more customers, Smith said, but they also had more effective security systems, involving cameras, security guards and plain-clothed shop walkers.

He recommended retailers struggling with shoplifting contacted police for training.

Ruth McCaa, owner operator of The $2 Shop in Blenheim, said they did not usually confront shoplifters.

The type of items stolen did not warrant getting into a fight or putting their personal safety in jeopardy, she said.

"Two days ago we had one guy who just pinched the numbers for letterboxes. Own your own business, and pay the bills. Then you'd know what it's like and how hard it is."

Shoplifters were more likely to be caught than ever before, and a conviction would affect them for years, Smith said.

"When shoplifters are successful they are often later identified by CCTV footage. Police will attempt to identify them and apprehend them. It is becoming more difficult to get away with.

"And a conviction for theft is something that can make life more difficult for people, whether that's employment, renting a property, or travelling overseas. It's just not a good thing to do if you want to live a comfortable life."

 - The Marlborough Express

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