Retail theft on the rise in Atlantic Canada

As the economy struggles, small businesses are beginning to experience an increasing number of thefts and robberies.

Biscuit General Store, located in the heart of the busy North End of Halifax, has been the target of a number of thefts over the past few months. More recently, the business has dealt with robberies.

“Our windows were broken twice, and here at Biscuit, we’ve had two attempted hold-ups,” said Wendy Friedman, owner of Biscuit General Store.

Friedman says beyond being hard on staff, these incidents are hitting the store’s bottom line.

“I feel a responsibility to take care of the people in my business,” said Friedman. “It’s also scary for me as a business owner because I can’t really absorb the expenses that have resulted from a lot of these incidents.”

Friedman is not alone. Thefts and robberies are on the rise across Canada, more fallout from the pandemic. Experts say this is a big problem.

“Once the pandemic wound down, there were so many people staying home that, as they returned to the stores, the rate of thefts went up. The estimate is around almost five to six billion a year,” said Ed McHugh, NSCC Business and Marketing Professor.

Clothing stores are not alone in dealing with the burden. Convenience stores are also a hit.

“We have seen a noticeable increase in gas-and-dash drive-offs, retail theft and break-and-enters and more so recently since COVID-19 restrictions ended,” said Mike Hammoud, Atlantic Vice President of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.

“We’ve made governments and police aware of the increasing theft issue and will continue to advocate for more police resources and security. Our industry operates on slim margins. We’ll need to see improvements or some stores are going to be forced to close.”

McHugh says inflation is feeding to the rise of crime like these.

“Inflation is running at four to six per cent,” he said.

McHugh predicts thefts are going to continue to increase. He said this would lead businesses having no choice but to take more aggressive measures to protect their stores.

Despite the numerous thefts that Friedman’s stores have been the target of, Friedman said he sees a bigger issue.

“I think people are really struggling right now financially and mentally. As a city, I hope we can recognize this and just support people in the community,” said Friedman.

Following the incident, Friedman decided to have 10 per cent of her store’s sales go toward a local organization.

“We’re donating to the Parker Street Food Bank just because I see what they do to help those in need in the community and I see people frequently going there, so I know they are helping people.”

Meanwhile, Friedman said he’ll do what he can to support his staff.

“We won’t have any staff working on their own here anymore, and also, we’re bringing in counseling and doing some things to help my staff feel more safe.”

It’s another act of generosity during increasingly trying times.

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