Agencies selling CCTV camerasand anti-theft deviceshave been doing brisk businessin the country and thereasons are obvious. We knewthat shop owners are always waryof shoplifters but here's theshocker: The findings of the GlobalRetail Theft Barometer 2009(conducted by Centre for RetailResearch, Nottingham, UK),which studied shoplifting patternsin 41 countries, revealedthat India topped retail shrinkagewith 3.2 per cent of sales. Retailshrinkage, in simple terms, refersto retail loss due to shoplifting,theft by employees, accountingerrors and supplier fraud. Thestudy found that 45.2 per cent ofretail shrinkage in India was dueto shoplifting and 23.2 per centwas due to theft by employees.Interestingly, it's not just themalls but also high-end boutiquesthat face the brunt. The shopliftersin this case are seemingly`well-heeled' women.Designer Kedar Maddula ofWundershop recalls how twowomen left him stumped: "Twowell-dressed women, flauntingfake Gucci bags, walked into thestore. Pretending to look throughthe clothes, they took some piecesoff the hangers and went into thetrial room. In the process, theystuffed a few garments into theirbags and slipped away. I realised itmuch later." The incident was aneye opener for him and his staff.The two women didn't call it aday. They then walked to the designerstore run by Sagar Tenalinext door and made away withheavily embroidered saris. "Theydistracted our attention and tookthe clothes. The incident made usmore alert and we never leave customersunattended," says Sagar.Shop owners, as a practice,check their inventory on a daily orweekly basis to discover the gapbetween the stocks and the sales.The shortage is written off as lossesbut the truth, obviously, lieselsewhere. With time, shop ownershave studied the modus operandiof shoplifters.Sarvamangala of Anagha recalls,"In July 2008 there was a majorinstance when we lost 12 tussarsilk saris costing approximatelyRs. 40,000. That is when I decidedto get an anti theft device installed."She observes that thewomen came in pairs, in short intervals,and while the store staffmembers were attending to someof them, others slipped a few sarisinto their bags. Some among thegroup carried on the `buyer' actuntil the actual shoplifters left thestore."Shoplifting is an organisedprofession in the twin cities. Ihave been witness to it in the last16 years of my experience in retail.The same gang doesn't visit thesame store a second time," addsSarvamangala.Designers who have boutiquesin their residence have also notbeen spared. Ishita Singh says, "Alady once walked away with a kurtibefore I could realise. Imagine allthis happening at my boutiquethat is right inside my house!"

What else did Global Retail Theft Barometer 2009 reveal?

The most stolen retail merchandise included high-end cosmetics, designer garments for women, perfumes, smaller gadgets, video games, DVDs and accessories. Among these, the retail shrinkage of designer apparels and accessories was the highest.