Increased vigilance vital for SA shoppers this festive season

Michael Petersen
As the year draws to a close, shopping malls begin to experience a significant rise in foot traffic as many South Africans and international tourists rush to complete their Christmas shopping. 

These heightened buying trends, aided by annual bonuses traditionally being paid around this time, lead shops to open their stores for longer and increase their stock intake as a means to capitalise on shoppers’ inflated budget. However, what should be a joyous occasion could turn rather sour as higher store revenues traditionally tend to attract criminals. 

This is according to Michael Petersen, CEO of Risk Benefits Solutions (RBS), one of South Africa’s largest independent insurance and risk specialists, who says that a spike in crimes ranging from in-store robberies to cash-in-transit heists, among other shopping mall-related crimes, usually mark the beginning of the festive season. 

“In the build up to Christmas, the number of shoppers increase and subsequently stores hold more revenue and goods, therefore attracting robberies.” He adds that most offenders are aware of this trend, and have come up with sophisticated strategies to exploit this information, thereby requiring stores to have the right cover to protect themselves financially from potential risks. 

“Following a spike in mall robberies last year, we have continued to see this trend in 2015. “Over the past six months alone, we have seen numerous incidents across South Africa, with the latest local mall robbery occurring at in Ga-rankuwa, Pretoria and Mall of the South in Aspen Hill, Glenvista (Johannesburg South).” 

He adds that the recently released 2015 crime statistics by the South African Police Services (SAPS) in September revealed that robbery with aggravating circumstances has increased by 9% year-on-year. “Syndicate crimes targeting businesses, especially attractive high end items such as jewellery, clothing, cellphones and cigarettes, is especially on the rise.” 

Petersen adds that unfortunately innocent by-standers have also been known to fall victim to robberies in malls and stores, and should take ownership, as most businesses do not provide such insurance cover for their customers. “Shoppers are not exempt from mall robbery crimes, and should not leave the onus on business-owners to cover their losses should they be affected.”

The continued robberies have made safety concerns a major priority, and individual shopping malls around Gauteng and the Western Cape, the largest hit areas, have since put plans in place to protect shoppers as far as possible. These include improved evacuation plans, as well as the replacement of poor quality security cameras that have been a hindrance in police investigations.

“These improvements in shopping mall safety are commendable strides towards better and safer shopping experiences, especially during the peak festive season. However they do not replace the importance of liability cover for shoppers and business alike, so that they have peace of mind to enjoy the festive season,” concludes Petersen.