The owner of much loved Melbourne vintage store Shag, that first opened its doors 1996, made an emotional plea on Facebook on Sunday detailing a spate of shoplifting offences following the store having re-opened after months in lockdown.

Speaking with Star Observer, owner Jeremy Valentine said that after an emotionally challenging year the fact that shoplifting is on the rise is particularly devastating for small business.

“I’m not the type of person that posts stuff like that, but it’s gotten to the point where I thought, something needs to be said. Especially now when it’s a struggle for businesses, this is it’s totally not acceptable,” Valentine said of the post. First there were the bushfires and that felt quite devastating I think for everyone in Australia. Then of course with COVID and the lockdowns also effecting the hospitality industry, which is a big part of our business too. We have quite a young demographic, a lot of those workers shop here and with a lot of our customers also being in the arts its effected many people and this both indirectly and directly affects us too. It has been a very difficult year.

Though they continue to uncover more stock that has been stolen, Valentine estimates there has been a doubling of the thieving going on since Shag reopened on October 28.

I do wonder if the fact that people are wearing masks, makes them feel a little more brazen in taking things. It is very hard to identify people when they have a mask and when they are also wearing sunglasses they are pretty much anonymous figures really. In a way it gives them a bit more determination.

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 Of the numerous incidents that have been reported since the store reopened, one was a regular customer of the business ‘who had shopped with Shag for many years but had used a stolen credit card to purchase $1500 worth of stock. While another regular customer one morning had waited outside for the store to open then came in, told staff how happy she was that they were trading again and how much she loved Shag’ before shoving items into her bag and leaving.

I genuinely believe that shoplifters mostly don’t have a conscious otherwise they wouldn’t do it,” Valentine adds. They are always sorry when you catch them but of course if they get away with it, they would just feel satisfied and jubilant.

I think during lockdown they have been eager to get out and thieve things from the shop. It’s quite soul destroying particularly for a business like us, and other vintage businesses where we actually hand source and hand select every item. It’s not like it’s a unit that we can order dozens and dozens of, when something goes missing we really do take it to heart. But more than the item, it’s just the fact that they do it that’s more upsetting, particularly at the moment.”

To those that have shoplifted from Shag in recent weeks, Valentine concludes with a simple message saying that these individuals should “think about what they are doing and think about the ramifications.

“They think they are just stealing something, but it really does undermine our faith in people. It’s very upsetting to be suspicious about every person that walks through door. It’s not just the loss of an item, the faith you lose in people and your customers is actually much worse than that thing they have taken.”

For more info on Shag, you can head to their website

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