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Dr Guthrie, a senior lecturer in marketing, said the university and Retail NZ had joined forces in a joint project to do something about this crime and to raise social awareness.
"If awareness is high then people will realise that retail prices are to some extent driven by the cost of goods lost via shoplifting," he said.
A new online survey would more accurately calculate the value of stock that "just walks out" the doors of shops, despite sophisticated detection systems.
Dr Guthrie, who directs the university’s Otago Retail Studies Group, and Retail NZ general manager for public affairs Greg Harford said the huge annual loss to the country’s economy should spur government action. Dr Guthrie, who was also the author of the previous Survey of Retail Crime and Loss Prevention in 2003, said New Zealand’s retail crime had not fallen, and was estimated at "just under $1billion a year".
Mr Harford said retail crime was "very topical", including because of the recent rise in "attacks on dairies".
Dr Guthrie said the dairy robberies were "largely driven by underground business motives".
Cigarettes were now "of sufficient value" and there were "still large enough numbers of smokers to provide a ready market for organised groups".
He was not optimistic about a quick solution, and the answer was likely to be long term.
A "Catch 22" situation had arisen because "sadly many small dairy operators need the profit from the tobacco trade to survive", despite tobacco’s attractiveness to criminals.
He was not sure if providing more security equipment in dairies was "the way forward" but helping with funding of a centralised CCTV monitoring system could be positive.
The planned research would help clarify "just how big" the overall theft problem was and "how retailers are tackling it".
Mr Harford said Retail NZ represented more than 4000 businesses and was "very active working on crime issues".
Dr Guthrie says the online survey will be distributed to more than 4200 retailers whose businesses collectively account for more than two-thirds of the country’s total retail spending.