Retailer's returns policy abused by criminals

JD Sports is considering abandoning gift vouchers after it discovered they are being used as currency for drug deals.

The retailer's policy when goods are returned without a receipt is to exchange them for gift vouchers. However, criminals are taking advantage of this by returning shoplifted goods and using the credit as collateral for illegal activity.

JD loss control director Tim Edwards said: 'Drug use is the biggest fuel for shoplifting. We're considering replacing (vouchers) with gift cards, which have no immediate face value.'

JD has installed till software enabling staff to record details of customers who return products, making it easier to identify refund trends. Edwards said: 'A while back we noticed we'd had 30 refund transactions from the same customer over a short period. In a case like this, we will tell the shopper that they are no longer welcome in our stores.'

Retailers such as JD are at risk, because their main 16- to 25-year-old customer group is among the most vulnerable to drug addiction. Sportswear is fashionable within street culture, creating the extra problem of addicts stealing clothes to wear, as well as to cash in.

According to one survey, heroin and crack users need an average of£323 a week to fuel their habit, and 67 per cent of addicts admitted to stealing from shops.

- With this issue: Security Guide 2005 - Fighting Retail Crime.