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BRC report increase in Retail Crime

The annual Retail Crime Survey from the British Retail Consortium put the total cost to retail in 2014-15 at £613m, a two per cent increase on the previous year and the highest cost on record.

The average value of goods stolen rose by over a third to £325 per incident of customer theft, another all-time record.

Despite this, the total number of offences has dropped for a second year. Retailers in the BRC’s sample reported 750,144 offences over the last year, a drop of two per cent compared to 2013-14. The high value of items stolen compared to the drop in total number of crimes has led the trade body to suggest that crime against retailers is increasingly being carried out by sophisticated criminals stealing to order.

Fraud is also on the rise. The majority of retailers surveyed reported that the level of cyber-attacks had increased or remained unchanged in the last year and fraud rose by 55 per cent, now accounting for more than a third of the cost of crime against retailers (36 per cent).

The human cost of retail crime has also grown, the BRC says. It found a 28 per cent increase in offences involving abuse or violence, rising to 41 out of every 1,000 crimes committed compared to 32 out of 1,000 reported last year. To view the 28-page report, visit the BRC website.

BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson, pictured, said: “These figures demonstrate the growing cost of crime against retailers – both human and financial. At a time when retailers have been cutting the cost of food and clothing to reduce the average price of our weekly shopping baskets, a small number of criminals are using ever-more sophisticated techniques to seize luxury items and to target retail employees with abuse and violence in their place of work. The report makes a series of recommendations which the BRC has pledged to work with law enforcement agencies to implement. They have called for retailers to be consulted when crime-fighting priorities are agreed, whether at a national or local level and have suggested a series of improvements to national measurements of the impact of retail crime across the UK.

Helen Dickinson OBE added: “The BRC remains committed to working in partnership with law enforcement agencies and retailers to cut crime and reduce the human and financial impact of the actions of a shrinking number of criminals.”

Comments

John Hannett, General Secretary of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw says: “All too often shopworkers encounter violence, threats and abuse for simply doing their job. So this latest survey from the British Retail Consortium is very worrying. Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them. We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail workers about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with retailers to promote respect and make workplaces safer for staff and customers alike.

“All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court, and those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender often isn’t charged at all victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted.

“Retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect shopworkers. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

A company offering monitored alarms is urging FMs to consider strengthening measures to protect retail staff at their work. Dave Whittle, CEO of Positive Response, said: “Businesses have a Duty of Care to identify any potential threats to their staff, this includes the threat of violence and abuse. The results of the BRC retail crime survey demonstrate that employers are not doing enough to ensure the safety of their staff and last year alone there were over 120 thousand incidents in the industry.

“Under the new health and safety guidelines, published this month by the Sentencing Council, businesses could face serious penalties for failing to meet their Duty of Care. Retailers must be aware of the services and technology available to help protect staff safety and well-being and promote a positive working environment.”

The BRC estimates that there were over four million criminal offences committed last year against retail. “This statistic is shocking and does not even begin to cover the cost to the sector of time lost through sickness and stress by employees, who have been a victim of verbal, physical abuse and crime,” said Whittle.

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