New research from the EHI Retail Institute suggests that light-fingered Germans stole goods worth a total of 1.9 billion euros ($2.77 billion) last year, says a Deutsch Welle report.
The study, which extrapolated data collected from 88 German retail chains, put daily shoplifting losses at more than 5 million euros ($7.3 million).
Almost the same amount again was collectively lost to thieving employees, cleaning and delivery staff and sloppy book-keeping. All told, shops across the country missed out on 3.7 billion euros ($5.4 billion) worth of revenue.
"A mighty figure," Kai Falk, managing director of the German Retail Federation (HDE) told Deutsche Welle, "but it was a drop of 4.8 percent over the previous year's thefts."
Falk attributes the downward trend to the increased use of video surveillance cameras, which he considers the most important deterrent to would-be thieves, no matter how controversial they might be. "There is a discussion going on about surveillance and data protection, but it is in the interests of the shops, customers and staff to have video cameras installed."
Of particular concern is the emergence of organized groups of bold thieves who are willing to go to great lengths to steal valuable goods, often with view to selling them on the black market. "These gangs of criminals are a serious worry," Falk said. "We have had many injured members of staff. As the nature of organized theft is often violent, we have a duty to protect shoppers."
Alcohol is particularly popular among German shoplifters
Frank Horst, the EHI's director of research, loss prevention and security, says they have cameras have a limited reach. "Technology can help to catch a thief, but attentive staff can prevent theft from happening in the first place," Horst told Deutsche Welle.
He believes the main reason for the slight fall in the numbers of thefts is that companies have been training their staff better in order to sensitize them to the way thieves operate. This includes teaching them where in a store to position goods such as alcohol, cosmetics, tobacco and razors, all of which are particularly popular among shoplifters.