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Head of Walmart Canada talks theft, self-checkouts, potential closures

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The head of Canada’s largest retailer says shoplifting is a serious issue for the company, but they’re working on it.

Walmart President and CEO Gonzalo Gebara was in Moncton Monday for the grand opening of a massive new distribution centre that will provide over 40 stores in Atlantic Canada with fresh and frozen groceries.

It’s positive news for the region and for Walmart, but it comes during a dark time for the industry.

Shoplifting has never been a bigger issue according to Statistic Canada and the world's largest retailer is not immune.

After a tour of the facility, Gebara spoke to CTV News about theft, security and store closures.

“Security in general is something we pay very close attention to,” said Gebara. "We have been working on internal processes. We have been working on investing in technology. We have been very well connected with the RCC (Retail Council of Canada) and collaborating with everyone so that we can make our stores the safest place for our customers to shop and for our associates to work.”

Some have suggested self-checkouts are part of the problem, but the company insists it has no plans to scale back on the trend to curb theft.

"We're really happy with the evolution that they are having and we're happy also with the fact that we're providing customers with choices,” said Gebara. “If you want to have a regular checkout, you can go there, and if you want to just attend for yourself, you can just do it.”

Jim Cormier, the Atlantic director of the RCC, says it's not just a problem with Walmart and it's getting worse for all retailers.

"It's not a victimless crime. It's one of the things we're trying to get across to all government officials, that this is not something that is a write-off on a balance sheet at the end of the day. This is something that has real consequences. Retail workers that have to deal with brazen thefts going on within stores,” said Cormier.

While it’s crippling some companies, Cormier believes it's an issue retailers can handle.

“But we're saying that we need some help with government officials and with policing officials to get together, work in community to try and see if there are solutions that we can work on together,” said Cormier.

Walmart closed four of its eight stores in Chicago, Ill., last month in abrupt fashion.

A lack of profits, theft and security concerns were listed as the retailers reasons for the closures according to media reports.

Gebara was asked if closing stores in Canada is a possibility.

"We're working with all of our resources to make sure that we just improve the general conditions of safety,” said Gebara. “Mostly because we want to stay here for our customers and for our associates and provide them safe places to work.”

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