tenby store vince malone

Pembrokeshire retailer Vince Malone is losing between £20,000 to £30,000 a year following a surge in shoplifting.

Vince, owner of Tenby Stores and Post Office, told Convenience Store that his store has experienced an increase of shop thefts since the pandemic ended.

”The shoplifting is generally done by individuals, not the organised crime that we have seen in some city centres, but we have seen an increase. We estimate that we’re probably losing between 30% to 40% more this year than we have done when compared to before the pandemic.’’

Vince explained: ”I think one of the biggest problems that we’ve had with this issue of shoplifting at the moment is that yes, we’re losing money and we are, we think it’s probably somewhere between £20,000 to £30,000 a year that we lose. This might be nowhere near the scale of some of the bigger shops, but that’s a significant amount of money for us.

”But on the other side of the coin, is that all our staff see the same news headlines, they read the same papers, it’s on social media and there’s this real kind of personal concern that they have, as we all would about working in an environment that could potential be quite confrontational.”

In an effort to curb the rise in thefts, Vince revealed that a lot of their efforts go into deterring the crime. He has taken proactive measures to adapt the store and to address the loss in profits, as well as prioritising the safety of his employees and customers.

”We don’t allow our staff to put themselves at any risk, or any customers. We’re having to think constantly around making sure that we’ve always got two people working in the building together. So, there is no alone working at the moment and that’s not because we’re in that bad situation, but I think our staff feel uncomfortable based on what they’ve read and seen, it’s in the news and quite rightly so.”

They recently upgraded their CCTV system with an AI camera monitoring software called Wildix which monitors shopping habits and can detect theft. If detected, the system can alert the staff members through their mobile phones and announce suspicious activity through store tannoys.

Vince said that the camera system monitors different aisles and in the event of an alert, staff members can respond by going to the area and investigating the situation.

The team at Tenby Stores and Post Office identified that alcohol was its most common stolen item. However, since installing the new AI system about one month ago, they discovered a noticeable increase in the theft of American sweets and have relocated them to opposite the counter to alleviate this.

The AI software has allowed them to prioritise where their focus needs to be, and Vince explained that through CCTV they have identified thefts and then forwarded the information to the police. Quite often they have identified names and disclosed shopping habits.

”It’s about us then making sure we give the police as much information as possible so that we can then put pressure on them and the PCCs, to make sure that we have a safe town to live in, work and shop. We’re seeing a lot of issues across the whole county and it’s something that is not isolated to one area and we need to have a concerned approach.

”Last Monday we had a couple of gentlemen come in and they came in three times to stole from us on Monday alone. But we were able to stop them on the third time at 9.30pm and then the police came and arrested them that evening.’’

In addition, the retailer announced that through the AI technology, a parent visited the store this week to settle a payment for their child who was caught stealing.

Retailer advice

Vince advised retailers to go back to basics. He explained that they have returned to greeting every customer upon arrival and departure, ensuring everyone is aware of their presence within the store.

”We’ve just remodelled our entrance area to make it more open and easier for our team to see people as they walk into the building. So, it’s about being very visible. It’s about making sure that if you’ve got doubts about people, then you go and ask them do they need a hand. But I’d also say, make sure you avoid confrontation because we know the flip side of confronting someone can be catastrophic, we’ve seen it on CCTV, and we’ve seen it on social media.

”Shoplifters perceive this as almost a victimless crime because they think that shops are making a lot of money and we obviously take pride in the look of our shop. But what they don’t see is that we’re working on very small margins and it’s a very fine line between us surviving and not surviving. We employ 15 people, so if we go out of business, there’s 15 people that lose their job.’’