7 Jun 2023

Retail crime 'worst it's ever been' with dozens of incidents daily - Foodstuffs

9:47 am on 7 June 2023
PaknSave Timaru

Foodstuffs covers New World, Pak'n Save and Four Square stores. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Owners of Foodstuffs supermarkets are reporting retail crime is the worst it's ever been, its North Island chief executive says.

A new survey by the grocery supplier claims a 38 percent increase in reports, when compared with last year, and a 36 percent rise in serious incidents.

The 320 grocers are members of the co-operative which covers New World, Pak'n Save and Four Square stores.

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin told Morning Report store owners, teams and customers were worried "every day" and he hoped the numbers would encourage people to make a difference.

"We've got a duty to keep customers and to keep teams safe in stores and when you see retail crime up 38 percent, serious assaults up 36, and repeat offenders being responsible for over a third of all reported retail crime, we absolutely have to acknowledge we have an issue and now we need to look at every possible way we can solve the issue."

From February to April alone, Quin said 3285 incidents were reported - averaging at about 37 incidents a day in its North Island stores.

"Every day we have families who own the stores … really, really worried about their staff and their customers and their safety. It is scary out there. The amount of abuse occurring at the till and within the store - it's racial, it's gender-based, and it's just not very nice.

"I've spent the last eight weeks going around our regions and talking to the families who own our stores and this is the worst they have seen."

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin. Photo: Supplied / Foodstuffs

Quin said parents were "quite rightly" concerned about their children working in supermarkets.

Young people themselves had also raised concern about working in an environment where they received abuse, he said.

"That's such a shame, you know, in New Zealand forever this has been a great after school job and a great university job and the start of many great careers and we really just don't think this is acceptable to New Zealanders right now."

Quin said Foodstuffs provided an "enormous" amount of training to help staff keep safe and was looking into any technology it could invest in to prevent harm happening.

He did not believe the increase in crime was related to the cost-of-living crisis as items stolen were not basics, such as nappies.

Quin told Morning Report its security specialists said items stolen were of high value and good for resale.

He hopes by "sharing the facts" it showed that Foodstuffs was open to collaboration to improve the situation.

In April, the government announced a $9 million boost for businesses dealing with retail crime.

Such crime was "not acceptable" at any level of pricing but Quin said the food giant was doing everything possible with regard to price inflation.

"We've managed to keep our retail prices increase below the total of food price inflation. That's us working hard on every aspect of the costing in our business to soak up those impacts.

"It's been pretty widely discussed and the sort of returns that our business sees are about the same as most competitive markets in the world."

However, Consumer New Zealand said it was still receiving thousands of complaints about incorrect pricing as supermarkets, including Foodstuffs stores.

Quin said it had taken every action to improve examples of price issues Consumer New Zealand's report gave Foodstuffs and staff worked hard every day to ensure prices were accurate in stores.

When made aware of an issue, it was dealt with right away, he said.

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