Cost of crime in retail surges 12% to £1.9bn

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retail crime
// New BRC data shows total cost of crime and crime prevention for retailers was £1.9bn in 2018
// This equated to a 12% Y-o-Y rise
// Over £700 million was lost to customer theft alone, which grew 31% Y-o-Y

The total cost of crime and crime prevention for retailers in 2018 surged by 12 per cent to £1.9 billion.

According to the BRC’s latest Retail Crime Survey, the total cost comprised of £900 million in direct cost from retail crime while £1 billion was spent in efforts to prevent crime.

The BRC added that total cost was equivalent to approximately 20 per cent of the estimated profits of the entire retail industry.

The direct costs of crime included a £700 million loss arising from customer theft, a 31 per cent rise on the previous year.

The human cost of criminal enterprise was also laid bare as the BRC’s survey revealed that 115 retail employees were attacked at work every day.

The use of knives by assailants was pointed out as an issue of significant concern.

Approximately 70 per cent of respondents described the police response to retail crime as “poor” or “very poor”.

While opinions showed the police response was generally better for violent incidents, as compared to customer theft or fraud, only 20 per cent of respondents considered the response “good” or “excellent”.

“Violence against employees remains one of the most pressing issues retailers face, yet once again we have seen an increase in the overall number of incidents,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Such crimes harm not just hardworking employees, but also on their families and communities. No one should go to work fearing threats and abuse.

“The spiralling cost of retail crime – both in losses and the cost of prevention – are a huge burden to a retail sector that is already weighed down by the twin challenges of skyrocketing business costs and Brexit uncertainty.

“We hope this report will act as a catalyst for police and crime commissioners around the country to take action. Retail crime should be explicitly addressed by police and crime plans.

“Furthermore, Parliament must play its part in stemming this tide of crime by creating a specific criminal offence to protect retail employees from assault at work, as has been done for emergency workers.”

The BRC’s survey found that retailers are spending 17 per cent more on cyber-security than last year, and nearly 80 per cent of the retailers surveyed have seen an increase in the number of cyber attacks.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) engagement director Clare Gardiner said: “Cyber attacks can have a huge impact, but to help potential victims pro-actively defend themselves we have published a range of easy-to-implement guidance on our website.

“Organisations can also share threat intelligence in a confidential way through the NCSC’s online Cyber Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP), which increases awareness to dangers and reduces the impact on UK businesses.”

The BRC said it was also working with a number of organisations to campaign for greater protections for retail workers.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “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 staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff.

“It is time for the government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.

“Shopworkers are on the frontline of helping to keep our communities safe, they have a crucial role that must be valued and respected.”

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