Fall in thefts fails to reduce £1.1 billion retail crime bill

Massive investment in crime prevention has resulted in fewer incidents of most types of retail crime, according to new statistics but retailers have yet to reap the financial benefits.

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) Retail Crime Survey 2010, published today (Monday), shows a welcome 11 per cent reduction in the overall number of offences (per 100 outlets) compared with the previous year. Shoplifting incidents were down 10.6 per cent though the total value of goods stolen was still up on the previous year.

But the reduction has come at significant cost. In 2009/10, retailers were forced to spend over £210 million on protecting their staff, stock and premises. That was ten per cent more than the previous year and is equivalent to the cost of 52,000 full-time retail jobs. And the human cost of retail crime remains high. Despite a reduction in offences, more than 18,000 staff reported suffering verbal or physical abuse.

The BRC is calling for retailers’ substantial and increased commitment to be matched by a similar level of commitment from law makers and law enforcers.

  • The BRC’s recommendations include:
    Urgent action on the large percentage of Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) that remain unpaid
  • Persistent and serious offenders should not be dealt with out-of-court
  • Robust enforcement of schemes such as restorative justice and community payback (where offenders are required to make-good with victims and the community)
  • Introduction of a dedicated national unit to investigate and report e-crime and fraud
  • Recognition of retailers as key partners in local communities – particularly before the 2012 roll out of locally elected police commissioners

Despite retailers’ success in deterring offences, the new survey shows participating retailers suffered 482,831 incidents of customer theft in a year. Assuming an average shop is open 12 hours a day, that equates to almost two thefts per minute across the UK.

Respondents to the survey, who represent 48 per cent of UK retail turnover, indicated only half of all customer thefts are detected – suggesting almost 2 million offences in a year across the whole industry.

The new survey shows the total value of goods stolen by customers was £137 million. The average value of goods stolen in each incident was £70, up from £45 the previous year. The next most costly forms of retail crime were fraud, burglary and staff theft.

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: “Retailers have already stepped up to deliver the Big Society and safe, vibrant communities. Faced with soaring retail crime in recent years – boosted by the recession and insufficient action by the police and courts – retailers dug deeper into their own pockets and spent even more on crime prevention measures. It’s encouraging to see this having a positive impact on the number of shoplifting offences but the cost to retailers still went up.

“Retailers’ extra investment in stopping crime has deterred a lot of opportunist thefts leaving a higher proportion of determined, organised thieves who take a greater value of goods each time they steal.

“At the same time, that investment has revealed more incidents of staff theft.”

Theft by employees was the only area to see a rise in incidents. It accounts for only five per cent of all retail crime by value but 68 per cent more incidents were recorded than the previous year. The increase is partly explained by employers improving their methods of detection. Though there were more incidents, the total value of goods stolen by employees fell.

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson added: “With police resources under pressure, retailers are making a £210 million a year investment in crime prevention. They are tackling shop crime head on. With proper support from the courts, police and politicians the fall in crime figures can and should be accompanied by the fall in costs that retailers and their customers deserve.”

British Retail Consortium Website