Swindle All The Way: Retailers Warned Of Festive Shoplifting Epidemic

New research published by G4S Secure Solutions (UK) (‘G4S’), the UK’s leading security company, reveals that one-in-seven (14%) people would consider stealing from a retailer this December.  Meanwhile, over 1.1 million people would consider stealing a Christmas present for a friend or family member, an increase of 50% over 2009.   

The dramatic rise in food inflation witnessed over the last year, with supermarket prices alone rising 4.4%** in October, may partially account for the three-quarters of a million Britons who would consider stealing consumables this festive season.  Over 500,000 people admit to contemplating foul play this December, with over a half a million people admitting they would steal a turkey from a shop if the opportunity arose. 

The seventh annual G4S Retail Crime Index reveals over 2.1 million people (5%) admit to having shoplifted over the last 12 months, a fall of 12% since 2009.   However the average value of items stolen has increased dramatically, with over £991 million of goods stolen in the last 12 months, an increase of 52% over 2009’s figures.  The rise in hard-up students may account for the disproportionate number of young people that have shoplifted in the last 12 months, with one-in-10 of those aged 18-24 admitting to this crime.   

Top items on the Christmas thieves’ wish list this December:

1. Presents for friends and family
2. Chocolates
3. Turkey
4. Christmas pudding
5. Other Christmas meat, such as beef, goose, duck
6. Christmas crackers
7. Christmas decorations and lights
8. Christmas condiments such as cranberry or white sauce
9. Christmas tree
10. Vegetables

Douglas Greenwell, Sales & Marketing Director, of G4S Secure Solutions (UK), commented:  “The harsh economic realities facing many families may lead normally law abiding people to consider shoplifting as a way to save money this Christmas.  However, for the sake of a £20 turkey, people risk a criminal record that could see them barred from a number of professions, limiting their future career options.  With young people twice as likely to shoplift, thousands of talented youngsters risk being officially labelled criminals.

“G4S is urging all retailers to review their security procedures and to take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of retail theft by ensuring that they have robust security protocols.  There are a number of basic steps that can be taken to reduce losses such as removing expensive merchandise from near shop entrances and ensuring clear sight lines throughout a store.  In extremely crowded retail environments criminals may think they can steal with impunity, but with sophisticated CCTV operations, alarm systems, visible and plain clothes security personnel, shoplifters may find they are visited by the police instead of Santa this Christmas.”

Adrian Beck, Head of the Department of Criminology at Leicester University, commented: “This survey highlights the important part opportunity plays in retail crime. Evidence from a wide range of criminological studies shows how people will think about breaking the law if they view the risks of getting caught to be low and the opportunity to offend is readily apparent. This is especially the case in the retail environment where there is constant tension between creating a tempting and readily accessible shopping space while at the same time ensuring that it is properly protected.

“There is delicate balance to be struck between selling and security, retailers need to ensure that they get this right, especially at times such as Christmas when demand is very high. Retailers need to make sure that their shopping spaces are adequately protected to minimise risk and maximise sales; this requires good processes, trained and motivated staff, well designed stores and the smart use of available technologies.”

Regional findings

One in ten (10%) Londoners admit to having shoplifted in the last 12 months, twice the national average.  Residents living in the North East in the last 12 months were the least likely to steal from a retailer.

Table One:  Regional shoplifting statistics

Region Percentage of residents that admit to shoplifting in the last year
London 10% (597,000)
Eastern 5% (224,000)
South West 5% (214,000)
East Midlands 5% (181,000)
South East 4% (250,000)
North West 4% (239,000)
West Midlands 3% (148,000)
Yorks & Humber 3% (122,000)
Scotland 3% (109,000)
Wales 3% (69,000)
North East 2% (43,000)

G4S Secure Solutions (UK) Website