“It’s happening in all stores and it’s weekly. We are a family business, and it is a big cost to us.”
Drake recently began outing what he called “repeat offenders” by sharing CCTV footage on his social media account @shake.and.drake. Drake’s videos take a satirical approach, labelling the alleged thefts as “magic shows” in which products “mysteriously disappear”.
He said the videos were born out of frustration.
“We’re using these videos to try and get the message out there that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable. Since when did stealing become socially acceptable? When are people going to take accountability for their actions?” he said.
“We knew that if we wanted to get the message out there we needed to be a little bit creative. We’re not accusing people, we’re just saying we want to chat to them.”
Drake said these alleged offenders are repeatedly targeting stores for high-value items such as premium meats and health and beauty products to sell illegally.
“Our intel has told us that these are being sold through flea markets, through social marketplaces, and, from what we can gather, they’re being swapped for drugs.
“We understand that there are people in need and we donate millions of dollars in products and cash to charitable organisations that are better suited to deal with people in need than us.”
Retail theft is, of course, a much bigger problem that’s not confined to Drakes Supermarkets.
“My security team is speaking to Coles and Woolworths on a weekly basis … this is going on everywhere, it’s just that everyone has been too scared to talk about it,” Drake said.
Phil Thomson, co-founder and co-CEO at retail crime intelligence platform Auror, told Inside Retail that retailers across Australia and around the globe are constantly battling the issue.
“Retail crime is costing retailers more than $100 billion a year globally,” he said. “Across Australia, 10 per cent of retail offenders are causing 50 per cent of loss, which is cutting heavily into retailers’ revenues and costing the Australian economy more than $5 billion every year.”
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has also been a 37 per cent increase in aggression and violence from shoplifters globally, Thomson pointed out.
“As part of this offending, retail workers have been subjected to a significant increase in aggressive and threatening behaviour and violence,” he said.
Fortunately for Drakes, incidents of customer abuse towards staff have tapered off in recent times.
“We are not going to accept any of our team members being verbally abused or physically abused and we will charge any customer [for doing so]. We’re finding less and less of that [abuse] coming through to our team members, so something is working,” Drakes said.
Awareness and transparency
According to Thomson, more retailers are moving to intelligence systems to tackle the issue.
“This is part of a global shift towards keeping staff safe and focusing on preventions by knowing who to look out for. By accessing real-time data, retailers can enhance the ‘customer service’ for their repeat offenders to ultimately prevent shoplifting and the violence related to organised retail crime,” he said.
But Drakes is focused on the power of its team, having introduced covert, undercover loss-prevention officers in all stores to prevent shoplifting, alongside security personnel in some stores.
“The team is far more switched on to what’s going on in our store. Team members have foiled multiple thefts since the videos were released,” Drake said.
He said he will continue to expose any wrongdoings publicly to raise awareness of the issue among customers and staff.
“One of the things that Drakes is doing that no one in the industry is doing is being open, honest and transparent with all of our communication and what we have found out is that our customers really want to hear about these situations so they can be aware of them.”