Rise in retail crime is costing billions

Figures show an increase of 7% in violent or abusive incidents, costing almost £2.5bn to British retailers

The full BRC crime report is available for free from the association’s website

THE latest crime report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) paints a worrying picture, with retailers and store staff frequently facing threats, abuse and assault.

The BRC’s annual crime survey revealed that there were 455 incidents of violence or abuse each day in the year to April 2020 – up 7% on the previous year.

In cash terms, the BRC estimated the retail sector lost £1.3 billion to crime which, combined with the £1.1bn Britain’s retailers have spent fighting criminals, led to a total cost of almost £2.5bn.

When asked about the three most significant threats for their business over the next two years, the vast majority of survey respondents nominated violence against staff as the number one issue.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) placed this as their top threat – with 88% placing it in the top three.

Concerns over retail crime also appear to have been compounded by a lack of prosecutions, with only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse resulting in prosecution, according to the BRC.

Customer theft was also highlighted as a key concern. The BRC revealed the annual cost of customer theft approached the £1bn mark for the first time, with 81% of retailers citing customer theft as one of their top three concerns – a close second to violence in store.

Cyber crime is also on the rise, according to the BRC, with retailers reporting a 50% increase in cyber attacks.

Ewan MacDonald, Scottish Retail Consortium Head of Policy, said: “Regrettably retail crime continues to rise year on year, with shopworkers facing ever-increasing levels of verbal and physical abuse. It’s absolutely unacceptable this appalling behaviour continues and it’s clear more needs to be done to protect retail workers.

“Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament took a strong first step by passing legislation to make it a specific offence to abuse a retail worker.

“It’s now vital that Police Scotland use that law, along with all the powers available to them, to focus on dealing with these perpetrators and help keep colleagues and customers safe.”

• The full BRC Crime Survey 2021 is available for download from the  trade association’s website.