Kenyan retailers resort to 'name and shame' to deter 'shoplifters'

In a report presented to the State department of Trade, retainers are seeking the green light to publish the names and pictures of persons caught shoplifting in their stores in an effort to reduce an estimated annual loss of about $50 million.

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“The retailers make arrests of shoplifters and hand them over to the police. However, soon after the arrest, the shoplifter is released on bond and the case takes ages to be finalised,” the report, before Trade PS Chris Kiptoo, states.

According to the Kenya Retail Analysis report, launched in July 2016, key retailers in the country are losing up to $35 million annually to pilferage, with the entire retail sector estimated to incur about $50 million loss.

Nakumatt and Tuskys, for example, said they lost more than $1 million each to shoplifters in 2015. This led to sacking of 107 staff at Tuskys after they were allegedly implicated in colluding with gangs to facilitate theft at Embakasi and Beba Beba stores.

Kenya is home to some of largest malls in the continent, early this year, the largest mall in Sub-Saharan Africa, Two rivers which is situated in Nairobi opened its doors to the public for the first time in a grand style.

Psychologists point out that shaming is as an effective tool in inducing behavioral change and deterring the public from committing the same by calling public attention to it. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them; it is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.

The report forms the basis of the ongoing consultation for the proposed National Trade Policy which among other things hopes to address challenges facing the retail and wholesale sector, including late payment of suppliers.

The retailers also complained of an existing cartel of petty offenders who although caught on a regular basis, always buy out their freedom through corrupt means and come back to steal. This, they argued leaves them exposed, with lost goods undermining their cash flow, hence contributing to delayed payments.

The Kenyan retail sector is dominated by indigenous supermarket chains, such as Nakumatt, Naivas, Tuskys, Uchumi and Chandarana all which have branches across the country. Despite the increased investment in CCTV cameras and radio frequency tags to detect goods that have not been paid for, the retailers have continued to struggle to mitigate the pilferage in the sector.

Although the issue of late payment is not unique to Kenya, the country lacks a legal framework to combat the delays. The retailers have cited revenue loss related to shoplifting as one of the leading causes contributing to the rising debt to suppliers, in the Kenya Retail Sector Prompt Payment report.

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