Store theft: prevention is the best solution argues resident law firm, DWF

Feehan: prevention is better than cure

Feehan: prevention is better than cure

Our resident business law firm, DWF, provides retailers with topical legal advice. Here Kevin Feehan, senior recoveries manager in DWF’s banking and finance group, explores the measures retailers can put in place to reduce the threat of theft

The BRC’s annual retail crime survey indicated theft cost UK retailers £1.4bn last year – this is up 31% from 2010. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 130,000 full time retail jobs. 

These latest statistics demonstrate retailers certainly need to keep the issue of store theft at the front of their mind in order to ensure their business is as profitable as possible.

There are two main considerations for retailers here; employee and public offences. When addressing these issues, there are various measures retailers can put in place to help reduce the threat of theft.


Interestingly, the survey indicated the total number of thefts is down, but the average cost per incident has increased. In regard to employee incidents, these fell by 24%, but the average value of thefts increased by 18%. Therefore, it is key to ensure the penalties offset any potential gain. 

However, before you can begin to implement procedures for handling incidents of theft, you need to know exactly what you are dealing with – so stringent reporting procedures are essential. While retailers tend to have structured reporting procedures in place for incidents of public theft, there are statistics that show that 90% of employee theft goes un-reported. 

Once these procedures are in place, retailers need to ensure the penalties are severe enough to deter the crime from happening in the first place, ie the punishment must outweigh the financial benefits. The policy also needs to be clearly communicated to employees – either via a handbook or another formal briefing procedure. 

The public

Again, the BRC survey shows that while the number of public theft incidents is down by 19%, the average value is up by 21%. So, it is important to ensure the actions and policies you have in place focus on solving the issues of public theft that bring about the most disruption and financial loss to the company. 

With public offences, retailers need to focus on identifying and pursuing individuals or groups who commit multiple offences, either by way of a monetary claim for loss and damages, or by seeking an injunction to prevent entry to the client’s estate in the future.


One reason we hear why retailers don’t tackle this problem is due to a misconception regarding the potential cost. However, the majority of cases are straight forward and there is a plethora of innovative funding solutions such as low fixed fees and commission only basis. Even when cases become more complex, as employee cases sometimes do, it is always possible to ensure retailers recover more than they spend. There is little effort involved in reporting a case and little input is required once an action to recover the loss has started.

Take Action

To make sure your theft policy is robust, seeking legal advice when devising theft policies can help to ensure the measures you put in place are as effective as possible in deterring potential offenders.  With nothing to loose and everything to gain including recovery of loss and deterring future offences, there has never been a more important time address this problem.

DWF LLP is one of the fastest growing law firms in the UK. It offers a full range of services to both businesses and private clients with teams specialising in corporate, banking and finance, litigation, real estate, employment and pension, insurance and private client law.