By NAOMI LARKIN
Shoplifting is costing the country $580 million a year - that's a hefty $1.59 million a day.
A survey, carried out by the Centre for Retail Research and Studies at the University of Otago, found that customers were the biggest thieves, at 56 per cent.
However, staff also took their share of goods home, at 26 per cent; with suppliers nicking 6 per cent. The remaining 12 per cent of shrinkage - the difference between stock levels at a given point and what they should be - was attributed to clerical error.
The centre director, Dr John Guthrie, said yesterday that New Zealand was no worse than countries such as Britain or the United States, but the problem remained a huge cost to the country.
One of the biggest concerns was the lack of awareness by retailers that their workers were continuing to steal from them.
Systems such as closed-circuit television, mirrors, electronic tagging and store detectives could all be used to combat customer theft, but better training was needed to fight stealing by staff, he said.
"They need to up the status of a retail staff member. They can do that by the way they treat their staff and the training they give them."
John Albertson, head of the Retail Merchants Association, said the organisation was running a series of seminars in 10 centres around the country to educate employers about shop theft.
"It's very hard to admit to yourself that the person that you work with and trust might be doing the dirty on you."
The survey found that 66 per cent of shoplifters were detected by shop floor staff, 13.6 per cent by security staff, 10.5 per cent by electronic surveillance, 5.3 per cent by customers and 4.6 by other means.
The survey involved 458 shops throughout the country, which represent almost 10 per cent of all retail sales in 1998.
By NAOMI LARKIN