Premiums and excesses have skyrocketed while coverage has dropped, forcing some retailers to forgo insurance. Others refuse to report attacks in order to avoid their own insurance costs rising. 

About 30 small retail businesses in Hamilton don’t have any insurance cover because it’s no longer worth it.  

Bryant Park Mini Supermarket owner Jignesh Vyas is one of them. 

“Last year, we got ram-raided once, and burgled twice, and all three times I claimed and because of that claim, this year, they increased my premium by about 100 percent.

“My excess last year was $1000 and this year they’re asking me for $10,000 excess for a burglary or ram raid. And last time there was no cap for claiming but this time, they asked me for a cap of $20,000 and that’s all together in a whole year, no matter how many times I get robbed.” 

With his premiums now doubled to almost $5000 he said it did not make sense to even bother with insurance.  

“So I said okay thank you very much I don’t want your insurance because if I paid $5000 as a premium with $10,000 excess and you will give me only $20,000 then that doesn’t make any sense.” 

After the triple-hit last year Vyas spent $18,000 installing steel doors and bollards on the advice of his insurance company.  

“So I did all that and spent all that money to secure my premises and then now this year they say we have this criteria because you already took so much claim from last year.

“We have had this insurance company for the last 10 years. Nine years we don’t have any single claim but on the 10th year we had a big claim – three claims – and on the 11th year they turn their face and say no, this is our policy.” 

“I can tell you in Hamilton are 20 or 30 shops that refuse to take insurance because costs are so high and their cap is only $10,000 or so, so why should they insure themselves?”
– Manish Thakkar, Hamilton retailer. 

Green Hill Super Value owner Manish Thakkar said it was getting harder to find insurance cover. 

“Insurance companies are getting tight now. Previously it was not like that but now because it’s happening quite often, insurance companies are really not interested in insuring our shops.

“That is their intention because they are also doing business right? So if they throw away all the time $10,000, $8,000, $20,000 and they’re not getting anything back … why would they do it?” 

He said the difficulty had started before the recent spike in localised ram raids and burglaries with caps on cover for cigarettes, and only if they were locked away. 

“But it keeps going on this way and every shop has their own different criteria, their own way of doing business. So because I’m a franchisee of Super Value, I’m not getting that much impact, but small dairy shop owners they are having problems with this.  

“I can tell you in Hamilton are 20 or 30 shops that refuse to take insurance because costs are so high and their cap is only $10,000 or so, so why should they insure themselves.”  

Since the start of the year there have been 57 ram raids in Hamilton reported to police, half of them condensed into August and September.

But Ash Parmar, a Waikato retailer whose two premises were both targeted by ram raids within a week of each other, said the real number was much higher.  

“If the damage done is less than a few thousand dollars they are not reporting it because it makes their excess go up.

“Our insurance excess is now $2,500, up from $1,000 after we were hit.” 

He put bollards up in front of both his Huntly and Ngāruawāhia stores, footing the bill himself before funding became available through the $6 million Retail Crime Prevention Programme. 

“If I didn’t do that the excess would have been higher.” 

But, he wasn’t mad at insurance companies. 

“They are businesses too, this is a risk for them. They aren’t charities.” 

“It is very risky now but still we have to do it because this is our livelihood.” – Jignesh Vyas, Hamilton retailer.

The Insurance Council said the localised spike in ram raid offending was not enough of a problem to affect commercial insurance, but said each retailer would be assessed on its own merits.  

“Factors to consider include claims history and other risk factors such as location and the general instance of crime, not just ram raids, but things such as burglaries or robberies as well,” a spokesperson said. 

“Where the risks are clearly higher, conditions such as having specified security equipment such as bollards, special glazing, grills and roller doors, alarms, smoke devices and the removal of high value stock out of hours etc, might be applied along with higher excesses and potentially exclusions for some types of claim.” 

The council said while conditions and exclusions might apply, insurance would typically remain available, albeit at a higher price. 

A different cost

In 2019, Parmar was the victim of an armed robbery while minding his store. The perpetrator has been convicted but is yet to be sentenced. 

He said the mental health effects of being a small retailer and dealing with violent crime was taking its toll. 

“My mental health is deeply impacted but luckily I have a great support system.  

“But, a lot of people don’t. A lot are ashamed to ask for help.” 

Jignesh Vyas wants to sell up but says there are no options.  

“Nobody wants to buy this business. I paid a certain amount to buy this business but now if I want to sell there is no buyer. Plus, if I find some buyer, they give me only 40 or 50 percent of my value.  

“I have to keep going whether it is profitable or not profitable.” 

He said it was also impossible to find staff, meaning he was working long days in a shop he was fearful would be targeted again.  

“I genuinely sit on the buzzer after 6pm in the evening and put my eyes on the door only. If something happened I pull that buzzer and the smoke and fog cannon will come and I will be safe. 

“It is very risky now but still we have to do it because this is our livelihood.” 

Last month police said in Waikato, 205 offenders had been arrested a total of 307 times for ram raid and smash-and-grab-style offending between February and September.

Some of those arrested were repeat offenders.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said it was tough on retailers.

“We know how tough it has been for retailers who are the target of this criminal offending. Some have been hit more than once and it’s having a huge impact on them.

“Police focus continues to be on working to try and prevent this type of offending and continuing to hold to account those responsible and place them before the courts where possible.

He said the reasons for the offending were varied and complex.

“For the vast majority they have been involved in some form of family harm and it’s almost certain many have been exposed to violence from a young age as either victims or witnesses.

“Their motivation continues to be money, peer pressure and social media notoriety for all the wrong reasons.”

Emma Hatton is a business reporter based in Wellington.

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