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Retail crime survey

UK retailers recorded an estimated three million offences against them in 2013-14, directly adding £603m to retailers’ costs. That’s according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) annual retail crime survey. The average value of each theft in-store increased by 36 per cent to £241 per incident, helping to push the direct cost of retail crime up to £603m in 2013-14.

The vast majority of respondents also reported suffering increasing levels of fraud, most of which is now committed online. Retailers warned that they expect fraud to pose the single most significant threat to their business over the next two years.

These trends are thought to be, in part, a consequence of retailers being targeted by more organised, sophisticated criminals, according to the retail trade body. The BRC has recommended that dedicated strategies to tackle business crime need to be developed by police around the country, in close partnership with businesses. A fundamental part of this approach is ensuring that data on business crime is properly collected and analysed by police, so that it can be used to inform operational activity.

Helen Dickinson, pictured, Director General of the BRC, said: “Criminal activity against UK retailers continues to have wide-ranging consequences for businesses, employees and the vast majority of honest shoppers. The average cost to retailers of theft has now reached £241 per incident, the highest in a decade. Fraud committed online also continues to rise.

“It is clear that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal. Despite an average investment of £2m per business in crime and loss prevention, retailers need help and support to respond to the threat. Police and Crime Commissioners should follow the lead set by the Mayor of London and work with retailers to develop dedicated business crime strategies to help tackle this growing problem.”

Among the findings

– Although the volume of shop theft offences declined by 4 per cent, the average value of each incident increased from £177 to £241.
– Fraud increased by 12 per cent in 2013-14 and accounts for 37 per cent of the total cost of retail crime.
– Retailers report that cyber attacks pose a critical threat to their business.
– There were 32 incidents of violence and abuse per 1,000 employees in 2013-14.

Comment

At the fraud prevention trade body Cifas Chief Executive Simon Dukes, said: “The rise in retail fraud is unsurprising – we know that fraudsters constantly adapt their methods and online shopping has added to the rise of cyber fraud. Retailers are not alone in experiencing increasing levels of fraud. But more than ever before companies also need to be aware of the risks of insider fraud.

“We know that organised crime gangs will often try to gain access to companies from the inside as well as the outside – through duping unsuspecting and honest staff using methods like phishing to gain sensitive information, as well as recruiting or planting dishonest employees. We welcome the BRC’s survey and call for action today. The more data we have about the scale and type of fraud – the better we can unite to fight it.”

And Simon Chapman, managing director of the north London-based security contractor Lodge Service, says: “Organised crime is now a growing problem. Gangs are targeting more expensive items and stealing in bulk. The coordinated use of advanced technology and experienced store detectives is now essential in ensuring the data on in-store criminal activity to then target protection precisely to deal with the growing threat.”

The security company launched its ‘intelligence network’ in 2014 to provide a range of web-enabled security services for retailers for remote monitoring and mangement of resources, including CCTV, biometrics systems, RFID product tagging and access control.

Chapman said: “Retailers are faced with the challenge of reduced budgets for security and rising losses to more sophisticated criminals. This in turn demands a more sophisticated and focused approach to loss prevention. Without this, a retailer can quickly become known as a soft target to gangs that operate nationally.”

Shop staff survey

Meanwhile the shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw brought out its Freedom From Fear survey, which tracks violence, threats and abuse against shop staff.

In a survey of over 5000 retail staff from across the UK, in the last 12 months on average 241 shopworkers are assaulted every day. The survey also suggests that a third of shop staff were threatened by customers and more than half were verbally abused.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Our survey shows that 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 have released our survey results on the same day that the British Retail Consortium has published their Retail Crime Survey. Both show the levels of offences have remained pretty steady from last year, which is little comfort for our members on the receiving end of violence and abuse. A worrying aspect of the BRC report is the increase in the value of shop theft, because all too often these incidents can lead to the criminal assaulting or abusing shop staff.

“Both surveys show that retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect shopworkers. On four occasions, in the current Parliament, the Government has defeated amendments to their own legislation that would have provided stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers.

“It is time for the Government to act. Crime in shops remains steady and is not coming down in line with the overall levels crime. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

Visit http://www.usdaw.org.uk.


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