Concerns grow over sustained increase in retail theft in the UK


Retail thieves are stealing more often and the value of their crimes is increasing, as this graph of average retail losses shows

According to every measure, retail crime is on the rise in the UK. That’s according to the latest report from the British Retail Consortium.

In its annual Retail Crime Survey, the BRC has found that every category of retail crime – shoplifting, employee theft, robbery and burglary – has risen over the past two years or more.

Last year saw the highest level of theft for nine years, and the average value of theft increased by 62 per cent to £177 per incident, indicating that stealing is becoming more sophisticated and well planned.

The BRC says that retailers are fighting a rising tide of theft, with criminal activity by a very small minority is having an impact on businesses, employees and the vast majority of honest shoppers.

Other key findings

  • It is estimated there were 2.7m offences in 2012-13 against retailers, directly adding £511m to retailers’ costs.
  • Robberies were up 48 per cent, but burglaries fell by 49 per cent compared to last year. Despite the number of burglaries falling, the cost of each incident rose from £1,730 to £2,067.
  • The average cost per incident of criminal damage jumped by 114 per cent  in 2012-13, from £962 to £2,062.

Despite retailers investing an average of £2m each in crime and loss prevention, they need help and support. The BRC has called on Police and Crime Commissioners to follow the lead set in London and work with retailers to build dedicated business crime strategies to help defeat this growing problem.

Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511m last year, 166 per cent higher than five years ago. Far from being victimless, we all pay for this increased stealing through higher prices and, increasingly, shop closures and damage to town centres as safety is reduced and communities are blighted.

“Last year we also saw a dramatic increase in fraud and e-crime with eight in ten retailers reporting a rise in fraud and the majority of retailers telling us that cyber-attacks pose a critical threat to their business. Combined with the increase in organised theft, this means that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal.

“We want to work closely with Police and Crime Commissioners and the new National Crime Agency and National Cyber Crime Unit to fight this serious crime, from fraud, to theft, to cyber-attacks. Our engagement has been positive so far, but it is still early days and it is important that they implement measures such as single points of contact and create dedicated business crime strategies.”

The BRC survey recommends that there should be a single, national, definition for business crime in the UK to help measure and solve these problems. Police forces should routinely publish business crime data, share that with retailers and work in partnership to combat crime.

In partnership, retailers, Police and government can build on the introduction of the National Crime Agency and National Cyber Crime Unit to help retailers combat this growing problem. These changes will not only fight crime, but also boost confidence and help to tackle the underreporting problem that led to only one in ten thefts being reported last year.

BRC Retail Crime Survey 2013


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