Why Is It So Easy To Shoplift In India?

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Looking for the best five-fingered discount? Head to India.

For the second year in a row, a survey of retailers conducted by Britain’s Center for Retail Research finds the highest percentage of retail loss (from shoplifting, employee theft, accounting errors and supplier fraud) occurs in India, where 2.72% of all retail sales wind up missing. Analysts call it “shrinkage.” Shop owners call it stealing. So why the ease of the retail snatch? Security, for one.

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Indian shops have yet to learn how to adequately safeguard themselves against thieves, according to the Economist, which reports shrinkage in 2010 had already cost retailers $107 billion worldwide by June, when the data was gathered. (Just one year after the Global Retail Theft Barometer report named India the most shoplifting country of 2009.) To protect small businesses, the country is largely closed to most foreign retail chains, but because these small businesses can lack the surveillance resources of the superstores that frequent our shopping malls in U.S., shoplifters are that much harder to catch.

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Still, it’s unfair to slam an entire country with a ‘sticky finger’ superlative. The inefficiency of retailer suppliers, internal accounting errors and an increasing rate of employee theft all weigh in on India’s high shrinkage score. And in a country that actually values the mom-n-pop, maybe higher-than-average hazards of doing said business seem like smaller issues.