An increase in retail theft is seeing people who had never needed shoplifting prevention training seeking it out, a crime prevention expert says.
Allsafe director Dean Chandler said retail theft had gone up in the past 18 months, with some groups targeting goods with a high resale value.
A survey by Retail NZ in 2023 found 92 percent of retailers contacted had experienced crime in the year to August 2023 up from 81 percent in the 2017 survey.
It found shoplifting was the most prevalent crime, with 82 percent of retailers affected.
Retail NZ chief executive Carolyn Young said retail crime came to a total cost of $2.6 billion, and $1.3b of that was shrinkage, or loss of goods.
About 57 percent of retailers were expecting crime to increase in the next year, Young said.
But why do people shoplift?
Lack of resources
Tasmanian School of Business and Economics marketing lecturer Dr Balkrushna Potdar said many people shoplifted due to a lack of resources to buy items.
Among adolescents, he said it was often due to young people wanting something but not being able to buy it.
For adults, it was more likely due to a material want and a lack of funds.
Potdar said some who were excluded from certain social classes might also shoplift in order to obtain items such as branded clothes that were associated with that group.
The cost of living crisis had also contributed to shoplifting, he said.
Young said retailers saw "a lot of organised crime and people stealing to order".
Chandler said the professional shoplifters either worked alone or in groups to target goods with a high resale value.
"Quite often these goods are distributed out through Trade Me, Facebook Marketplace, and so they have various markets with which to move the goods on and make a living from [them]."
Potdar said some would also shoplift for the attention.
He said that could often be teenagers who were trying to get attention.
But it could also be those who felt excluded used shoplifting to gain attention from those groups.
"Then there's young people who are committing destructive acts and gaining notoriety and doing really outrageous things to be and to be famous on social media," Young said.
Addiction and mental health
Young said their retailers also saw addicts "stealing to fund addictions".
Potdar said there was also research to suggest some shoplifted under the influence for the thrill of it.
He said that people with mental disorders like kleptomania, they would steal out of compulsion.
Chandler said as they were stealing due to a psychological disorder, they would often steal low-value items.
He said other psychological disorders such as depression could also give people compulsions to steal.
Thrill-seekers and opportunists
Chandler said often thrill-seekers were teenagers who had been egged on by their peers, "or they just feel the need for that adrenaline kick and so they just decide to target something and take it on the spot".
Some shoplifters were also opportunists, he said.
He said they may target goods that are not adequately secured, or if they were not being monitored properly, "people who just see the opportunity and take something".
Victoria University of Wellington psychology associate professor Hedwig Eisenbarth said it was important to also consider behavioural and situational factors when looking at why someone shoplifted.
She said while shoplifting could be part of a pattern of behaviour, it could also be situational, and the behaviour could also have an underlying purpose.
Behaviour aspects could include mental health factors such as impulsivity issues, she said, while situational factors could be acute stress or a specific need or context.