Shocking new figures
New action demanded as crime against shops rises
Retailers are now demanding better police protection and improved sharing of data to help combat the rising tide of crime committed against employees and property.
The British Retail Consortium’s annual Retail Crime Survey report reveals stark new figures showing that the total cost to the retail industry in 2014-15 was £613 million, a 2% increase on the previous year and the highest cost on record.
The average value of goods stolen rose by over a third to £325 per incident of customer theft, another all-time record.
Despite this, the total number of offences has dropped for the second year running, by 2% to 750,144 offences. This fall has led experts to believe that crime against retailers is increasingly being carried out by sophisticated criminals stealing to order.
The majority of retailers surveyed reported that the level of cyber-attacks had increased or remained unchanged in the last year, and fraud rose by 55%, now accounting for more than a third of the cost of crime against retailers (36%). All retailers questioned said they would report a cyber attack to the police, suggesting that recent awareness campaigns may be having an effect.
The human cost of retail crime has also grown. Data collected showed that there had been a 28% increase in offences involving abuse or violence, rising to 41 out of every 1,000 crimes committed compared to 32 out of 1,000 reported last year.
“A small number of criminals are using ever-more sophisticated techniques to seize luxury items and to target retail employees with abuse and violence in their place of work.”
The report makes a series of recommendations which the BRC has pledged to work with law enforcement agencies to implement. They have called for retailers to be consulted when crime-fighting priorities are agreed, whether at a national or local level and have suggested a series of improvements to national measurements of the impact of retail crime across the UK.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “While the longer term trend is downwards Scotland did witness a 3% increase in shoplifting over the past two years, and with the average shop theft now costing £325 it is clearly far from being a victimless crime.
“Shop thefts hamper retailers’ ability to service their customers and means less money is available for improving the business including things like staff training or store refurbishments.”
He added: “Violence or abusive behaviour towards shop staff in Scotland is wholly and utterly unacceptable. Retailers invest considerable time and resources in building and training their teams as well as protecting their workers, stock and property.
“Our industry guidelines are designed to help businesses of all sizes share and understand best practice in preventing staff from being attacked or abused.
“Beyond what retailers can themselves do, it is important that the police and criminal justice system respond firmly and effectively to those who are violent or threatening towards retail staff.
“They should be dealt with in exactly the same way as someone who commits such a crime on the street.”
John Hannett, general secretary, of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said: “All too often shopworkers encounter violence, threats and abuse for simply doing their job. So this latest survey from the British Retail Consortium is very worrying.
“Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them. We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail workers about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with retailers to promote respect and make workplaces safer for staff and customers alike.
“All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court, and those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender often isn’t charged at all victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted.
“Retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect shopworkers. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”
Top photo: Shop theft is on the rise (by Terry Murden – posed by model)