Vertical Markets

Retail rise

by Mark Rowe

The cost of crime has risen significantly again, rising by 15.6 per cent in the year, to an overall cost of £1.6 billion. That’s according to the latest annual survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The number of incidents has also risen in the majority of offences, with the exception of robbery, which has remained stable; and violence against staff, which has reduced by 55 per cent when compared to the previous year.

Customer theft continues to be the most prevalent when looking at the number of incidents; however, the BRC says, e-crime now equates to the most costly type of crime affecting the sector.

Retailers continue to spend to protect their businesses, staff and customers against crime and anti-social behaviour. Expenditure on crime and loss prevention had risen by 7.1 per cent when compared with the previous year with a median expenditure of £750,000 per retailer. Despite the increase in the number of incidents and overall cost of crime, there has been a significant reduction in the number of offences being reported to the police.

BRC Director General, Helen Dickinson, said: “Systematic targeting of higher value goods by organised criminals is pushing up the cost of retail crime but the proportion of shoplifting incidents reported to police has plummeted to just one in eight – highlighting just how much there is to do to build retailers’ confidence in the way police forces respond.

“There’s been some success from closer engagement. The BRC’s work with the Met has led to the Mayor’s office recognising retail crime as a force priority in London. But I’m concerned that Police and Crime Commissioners, who are now responsible for determining local crime-fighting priorities elsewhere, are not getting a true picture of the extent of retail crime.

“Retail crime doesn’t only impact on its direct victims but on wider communities. It damages the reputation of local areas and those who steal from shops commit other sorts of crime.

“Retailers are spending more than ever on protecting their customers, staff and stock. They deserve the support of law enforcers and politicians. Staff should have confidence to report crime and that action will be taken against those responsible for it.

“The appointment of PCCs presents a new opportunity to understand and tackle retail crime and its effects. It’s vital they put it high on their agendas.”

The retail trade body described it the survey as its most comprehensive – drawing responses from 44 retailers, employing 1.4 million staff and representing 58 per cent of the retail sector by turnover. You can view the full 40-page document on the BRC website –


Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) General Secretary John Hannett said: “While we welcome the reduction in the number of incidents of violence against staff, 2012 still saw more than 28,700 retail workers attacked, threatened or verbally abused during the year ­– totally unacceptable. Every worker deserves to be treated with respect and should not have to put up with aggressive and abusive behaviour.

“We agree with the BRC that there is also a massive problem of under-reporting in the sector. It’s clear that both employees and employers feel the police are not treating retail crime as seriously as they should be. So it’s vital that we restore confidence in the police when dealing with retail crime. Our own figures show incidents of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour are still all too commonplace. We also know shoplifting is often a flashpoint and the most common trigger for violence against staff. To add insult to injury the Coalition has recently rushed through changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) which will see shopworkers who are innocent victims of violent crime receive little or no compensation for their injuries and trauma. In addition the Coalition has also cut police numbers significantly which we believe further exposes vulnerable staff. We will continue to work with employers, the police – particularly the new Police and Crime Commissioners, and local authorities, as part of our Freedom From Fear campaign, to minimise risks, encourage reporting of all incidents and ensure staff are fully protected. Retail crime is not a victimless crime and abuse is definitely not part of the job.”

And David Hanson MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister, said of the report, released on January 21: “Today’s figures make grim reading for both retailers and police. This level of crime is clearly under-reported and not recorded, with retailers saying the level of crime is up, the cost of crime up and confidence in police low.

“Retail crime is becoming a much more organised and sophisticated type of crime, but with Tory-led Government cuts meaning 15,000 fewer police and morale at an all-time low the ability of police to respond to or even record this challenge is undermined by the Government’s plans.

“We must be able to have confidence in the Government being able to support the police in tackling new or concerning areas of crime. This is not possible when the Government are so complacent about the level of crime and the impact their drastic cuts are having on crime, on retailers and on our communities.”

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