Theft in supermarkets has a cost: “148 euros per household and per year”

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In-store theft, also called by professionals “unknown markdown”, represents billions of euros in losses for French retailers. A phenomenon whose first victims are consumers. Explanations.

According to a “Retail Security in Europe” study, conducted in 2019 by Crime & Tech, thefts in stores cost French distributors 7.3 billion euros in 2017. A figure which is admittedly a bit dated, for lack of more recent studies on the subject, but still impressive. “Thefts in supermarkets are difficult to estimate”, explains Stéphane Hutinet, director of Auchan de Castres, the largest hypermarket in the south Tarn. “What we see are margin discrepancies. We call that ‘shrinkage’. A good part of these discrepancies come from theft, but can also come from administrative or other errors.”

“Store thefts would represent 1.7% of turnover”, assures Franck Charton, general delegate of Perifem, the technical trade federation. “Of which 60% are involved with food distributors”, continues the expert. “On a store like Auchan, I would say that it is around 100,000 euros per year. But this is only an estimate”, specifies Stéphane Hutinet.

Among the most stolen objects, “it is alcohol, razor blades and batteries”, which come first, assures Grégory Vouters, president of the Federation of Commerce in Occitanie. “Video games and electronic devices”, completes the director of Auchan de Castres. Super U also evokes make-up. “And contrary to what people believe, there is no insurance. When it is stolen, it is lost for the store”, wishes to specify Grégory Vouters, president, him, of the Federation of commerce in Occitanie .

“Consumers are the first victims of this phenomenon”

Even if they are difficult to obtain, the figures would be rather stable from year to year. “Flights are not down, but I haven’t heard of any particular increase,” says Grégory Vouters. “Afterwards, it is very variable depending on the sectors and areas, which may be more sensitive than others”.

“The concern is that today, it is the consumers who are the first victims of this phenomenon”, deplores Franck Charton. Indeed, the margins of the brands are very low, around 1%. To maintain themselves, distributors will therefore pass on the price of the losses to the prices of the products. Thus generating a bill little known to the millions of consumers that we are: “According to our calculations, this represents an average of 148 euros for each household per year. Fighting against theft therefore means defending the purchasing power of the French!” , assures Franck Charton.

“Automatic checkouts can generate quite a lot of markdown”

But what security measures are in place? “More and more stores are equipped with a video control system”, explains Stéphane Hutinet. “We also find an anti-theft system on the most expensive products, even a sheepfold system, that is to say with a withdrawal by a seller of products that are not self-service, such as consoles video games”. Larger stores are also equipped with physical surveillance, with security guards.

Another problem: the introduction of automatic checkouts, which is characterized by an increase in thefts. “Indeed, it is a device which, if it is not well controlled, can generate quite significant shrinkage”, assures the Super U press service. “This is part of our lines of work, in particular through of the implementation of artificial intelligence systems”, affirms the general delegate of Perifem. “However, today we cannot stop a system that pleases customers, when 99% of our customers are honest”, tempers Stéphane Hutinet.

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Theft in supermarkets has a cost: “148 euros per household and per year”


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