AT FIRST glance, they looked like any other young executive grabbing a good buy at the
four-day Sitex electronics fair at the Singapore Expo over the weekend.

But the two men, in their 30s, tried to make away with two game titles from exhibitor Playcraft. An alert staff member stopped them and made them pay.

Mr Collin Ho, managing director of BloomPac that manages Playcraft game stores, said that shoplifting at the four major information-technology fairs here is getting “quite common”.

“We can get 30 to 40 cases a day, at large fairs. So, this time round, we hired security officers,” he said.

This led to the shoplifting cases dropping to a record low of nearly 20 at Sitex, with about five cases reported to police.

Most thieves are teens, but Mr Ho is baffled that some are executives with spending power.

“It’s not like the $30 to $60 games are thousand-dollar items,” he said.

However, he does not want to lock up his goods behind the counter. “I want a good shopping experience for customers.”

Another Sitex exhibitor, who did not want to be named, also hired more staff to help him mind his booth, after he lost 30 to 40 MP3 players at an earlier IT fair. None of his products were stolen at Sitex, as a result.

For exhibitors like Worldwide Computer Services, displaying goods openly is worth the risk, even if the huge turnout means shoplifters are hard to spot. It nabbed over 20 thieves, mostly young people, at Sitex.

Mr Anagappan Muthiah, managing director of the store, said shoplifting results in lost sales of 5 to 10 per cent at IT fairs. But locking up his goods, such as phone cases that cost under $35, can cause sales to fall by 70 per cent.

Mr Chandran Nair, deputy general manager of SingExhibitions, manager of Sitex, said that while it has not received any official reports of theft, the firm “is not taking this for granted, and will definitely continue to constantly refine our security operations”.

Mr Nair added that SingExhibitions briefs all exhibitors and event staff on issues such as safety and security before a show.