Shops fraud and theft costs €55m this Christmas
Shoppers warned to be aware of tap-and-go scams as post-festive period bargain hunt begins
CONSUMERS and businesses are being warned to remain vigilant of a spike in fraud, theft and shoplifting that is expected to cost more than €55m over the Christmas period.
Retailers expect to be inundated with bargain hunters from St Stephen's Day onwards as the traditional post-Christmas sales kick-off. But extra business also comes with an increase in criminality.
Businesses expect losses from theft and scams to increase beyond last year's total for the Christmas period despite gardai reporting that shopping is becoming safer.
By the end of December businesses and shop owners think they will have lost more than €255m over the course of the year.
Consumers are also being warned to be vigilant. There is a growing trend of criminals taking advantage of tap-and-go systems used for credit card transactions - unsuspecting consumers are targeted by thieves extorting small sums from their accounts by tapping a card reader off coats, handbags and wallets.
Consumer Association of Ireland's policy adviser Dermott Jewell said it is important to be aware of tapping fraud with credit and debit cards.
"There is a lot of positivity about using the tap system, but consumers need to be very careful because it is small amounts of less than €30 being taken at one time and people are spending so may not notice it going missing," he said.
Retail Ireland Director Tom Burke said criminal activity is a huge concern as shops get busier for the sales.
"It is a constant focus for the industry in terms of trying to provide CCTV and technology to counteract it and to have a very visible security presence in stores."
Figures from gardai show there was a 2.7pc drop off in theft from shops earlier this year. However, shoplifting is still hitting consumers in the pocket and adds an average of 3pc to the cost of goods as retailers look to recoup losses.
Some of the January sales will start early today and Dermot Jewell said consumers can be certain of finding bargains. "Most people need to understand they must set a budget and they need to stick to it because the goal behind sales is that the prices are pushed to such an attractive rate that you want to keep buying," he said.
The unseasonably mild weather of late is also going to lead to bargains with Mr Burke advising that stockrooms across the country are full of winter coats and accessories.
"The mild weather is good news from a personal perspective but for retailers it is a bit of a nightmare because we have not seen any movement from consumers buying big bulky winter coats," he said.
"They have been difficult to shift but as we move in to spring retailers will discount those items more heavily because it is starting to back up.
"A cold snap over Christmas might change that but it is unlikely now so they will be heavily discounted."
Major clothing stores like Arnotts and River Island said they will have reductions of up to 50pc across most departments. Electric retailers and furniture stockists are also reporting significant reductions. Currys and PC World will have up to €750 off large screen televisions, up to €300 off washing machines and big reductions on laptops.
There will be €49 off a Nespresso coffee machine in Debenhams, half-price blow dry kits and reductions on bedding and electrics.
Ikea and Harvey Norman are also reporting significant reductions on home furniture.
"The consumer has become preconditioned to reductions and things being on sale and they will expect that to continue on too when the traditional sales are on," said Mr Burke.
"What we will see are further discounts of up to 50pc or 60pc in some cases from St Stephen's Day onwards."
Retail Excellence Ireland's Lynn Drumgoole said trading in the run up to Christmas will be on a par with 2015 when shoppers complete their gift buying this afternoon.
Much of this was due to a late rally, with consumers willing to wait for further price reductions before committing to a purchase.
"Footfall in many urban centres is up as consumers soak up the atmosphere and enjoying the Christmas experience. However, mild weather in recent weeks has had a negative impact on sales of winter stock," she said.
"Consumer shopping patterns are changing with savvy consumers researching online and in store for the best prices, discounting and ease of shopping experience."