The cost of retail crime in the UK has increased by 31% to £1.4bn – equivalent to 130,000 retail jobs, according to the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2011.
While there has been a reduction in the number of offences, there has been an significant increase in threats and verbal abuse to retail staff – up 83% compared with last year.
Robberies have also increased by 20% with retailers reporting an increase in the use of weapons and violence, said the BRC.
Despite a reduction in theft and burglaries reported in this year’s survey, the value of these offences has increased significantly, said the BRC. Retailers have invested heavily to protect against low-level offending, however, the increase in costs associated with these offences is a likely indication of an increase in more serious and organised offending.
While the BRC said it supports the Government’s proposal to introduce locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners later this year, it is concerned the lack of appropriate measurement for retail crime, combined with greater reliance on crime maps to determine local crime priorities, will make it exceptionally difficult for retailers to influence the local crime agenda.
With a move towards more locally based policing, it is imperative retail is seen as a cornerstone to safe and vibrant communities and retailers are genuinely involved in setting local crime priorities, it said.
Retail crime was thrust in to the public eye following the August riots in 2011. This highlighted the importance of tackling retail crime at an early stage, said the BRC.
This criminal behaviour had a significant impact on retail businesses but most importantly, on retail staff and customers, the survey found.
The BRC said it was reassuring to see so many of those involved remanded in custody and given custodial sentences, but the high percentage of those who had previous convictions remains a matter of significant concern.
Commenting on the survey’s findings, Steve Rothwell, CEO at mobile marketing firm, Eagle Eye, said: “Britain’s retailers are facing some of the most difficult trading conditions ever, so they simply cannot afford to be hit by another rise in retail crime this year. With fraud accounting for almost a third of incidents by cost in 2011, and just one in two offences reported to the police, retailers must take prompt action to combat this wave of retail crime, particularly at the till, where 80% of retail fraud takes place.
“Some of the most common scams include cashiers ringing up items at a lower price, refunding stolen goods, not adding all products to the bill or accepting paper-based coupons for product that haven’t been purchased. Unfortunately some of these cons will always continue to be a problem, however coupon fraud is a crime that can be prevented with EPoS technology. By digitising coupons and automatically checking them against the products that have been bought, retailers can remove staff from the process, making it much harder for would-be criminals to pull a fast one.”