Organised gangs of shoplifters are using aggressive tactics to steal trolley loads of high-priced goods to order, police say.
Napier and Hastings police said groups of up to six men and women were entering stores and filling shopping trolleys with expensive products such as meat, alcohol, electrical goods and clothing.
Members of the group then distracted security staff, often by starting an argument, while the laden trolley was wheeled to a waiting getaway vehicle.
"We believe they are stealing to order,'' said Hastings Senior Sergeant Stuart Fleming.
"They are a particular echelon, groups of male and female offenders, who are using this highly organised approach to it.
"Groups between three and five or six, with vehicles, target the items they are interested in and are able to dispose of pretty readily."
Napier Senior Constable Bruce Ford said there had been 62 reported incidents of shoplifting in the cities in the past four weeks, with a shoplifting gang targeting The Warehouse in Napier last week.
Other large chain stores such as Briscoes, Farmers and supermarkets had also been hit.
Mr Ford said a pre-Christmas spike was expected, as goods became in higher demand and easier to offload.
"This type of shoplifting is on the increase and people targeting shops like this is getting more prolific.
"Previously, we have had groups of ones or twos, now we have up to four or six getting up to something.''
Hastings Pak'n Save store manager Rowan Geddes said the offences, and attempts at the offences, were on the rise.
An extensive security system was in place but the thefts were a concern. "We have noticed a bit of a rise in shoplifting and had one or two here and there that is part of the gang," he said.
"We know it is going on but it is a hassle and does put pressure on staff.'' Mr Fleming said police had enlisted several tactics to deal with the offenders and the matter was being treated seriously by police from both cities.
Mr Ford said vigilant shoppers could help stop the criminals by alerting store security to suspicious activities, calling police in serious cases and noting down registration numbers.