Old-school cash banking puts retailers at huge risk
More than 70% of retailers physically bank their takings every month, and criminals know who they are
More than 70% of the country’s retailers choose to use traditional banking methods over automated technology to bank their money, making them prime pickings for criminals.
The most vulnerable retailers are liquor outlets and those that pay out millions a month in cash for state-issued grants.
This is according to the Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA) and the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric).
Abraham Nelson, CGCSA’s crime risk initiative head, said that in an attack on a retailer, criminals could make off with anything from R300,000 to R4m depending on the size of the retailer and its location.
There were more than 71,000 business burglaries recorded in the 2017/18 financial year, along with 20,000 armed robberies, according to 2018’s crime statistics.
On Tuesday, at a media briefing in Johannesburg held by cash protection company Cash Connection, Sabric and crime researchers, it was revealed that on any given day R140bn in notes and coins are circulating in the country.
The briefing was used to highlight the vulnerability of retailers, especially over Easter.
Cash Connect’s joint chief executive, Richard Phillips, said that with Easter just days away, they were bracing for an increase in attacks.
“If you look at year-on-year police crime statistics from the period March/April 2016-2017 to March/April 2017-2018 there was a 16% increase in attacks on retailers countrywide.
“We fear that it could be the same this Easter period, which is clearly the flavour of the month for criminal activities because of the increase in cash flowing in the retail space.”
Gauteng leads the country when it comes to retailer attacks, with 46% occurring in the province, followed by the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, said Phillips.
Citing Sabric, CGCSA and police statistics, he said that while there had been a 7% decrease in attacks on retailers from 2016/17 to 2017/18, “it is still no reason to throw a party”.
“Where statistics show a major increase is attacks on high-volume retailers such as liquor outlets. Here, we see an increase of 21%, which is alarming.”
Last week, 14 men robbed a supermarket and liquor store in Tarlton, outside Johannesburg, killing a security guard, while in Port Elizabeth robbers held up and robbed staff at a liquor shop.
In March, in the Mpumalanga town of Ermelo, two robbers posing as customers robbed a liquor store.
Phillips said an alarming trend was the number of retailers who resorted to using traditional methods to bank cash.
“Of the country’s retailers, 71% still use traditional methods to bank their cash, which involves carrying money into the bank. The belief out there is that using hi-tech automated systems are expensive and timely, which is a complete fallacy.
“Automated systems reduce risk significantly, with cash reflecting instantly in retailers’ accounts.”
The CGCSA’s Nelson said the number of retailers who still physically banked cash was alarming.
“On a monthly basis we meet our members and emphasise the importance of using automated systems and technology to bank cash. In the end though it is their decision.”
Attacks on retailers increased before and during holiday periods, and at the end of the month, he said.
“This is particularly true when it comes to attacks on retailers who dispense state grants. Many who receive grants believe they have to withdraw their money in one go otherwise it will no longer be there. Those receiving grants go to retailers to get their money because, unlike banks, retailers don’t charge a fee for the money to be withdrawn.
“The implication is that retailers have to bring in extra cash into their stores, which criminals are aware of, which makes them extremely vulnerable.
“The problem got so bad, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, that a task team involving SA Social Security Agency, the SAPS and the CGCSA was formed to look at what could be done to put systems in place to protect retailers and grant recipients.”
Sabric chief executive Kalyani Pillay said they were trying to educate people about how to best manage their banking.
“We appreciate that people often want to have cash, but we encourage them to inquire from their banks about alternative methods to bank their money, given the vulnerabilities around cash.”
Institute for Security Studies policing researcher Johan Burger said crime syndicates were not effectively being dealt with and simply moved to softer targets when the police stepped up their actions.
“When there is heat from the police focusing on mall attacks, criminals shift their focus to cash-in-transit vehicles. When the police combat cash-van heists they move to ATM bombings, and so it continues.
“As long as there are no proper crime intelligence-driven actions, these attacks, especially on soft targets such as retailers, will continue.”