The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey has revealed the vast cost of crime to people and businesses up and down the country.
The total cost of crime and crime prevention for retailers was £1.9 billion last year, up 12% from the previous year (£1.7bn). This was made up of £900 million direct cost from retail crime, and £1 billion spent in efforts to prevent crime.
The direct costs of crime included a £700 million loss arising from customer theft, a 31% rise on the previous year. The total cost of crime, at £1.9bn, is equivalent to approximately 20% of the estimated profits of the entire retail industry.
The human cost of criminal enterprise was also laid bare as the 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% of respondents described the police response to retail crime as poor or very poor. And while opinions showed the police response was generally better for violent incidents, as compared to customer theft or fraud, only 20% of respondents considered the response good or excellent.
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“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. 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.”
Retailers are spending 17% more on cyber-security than last year (£162 million), and nearly 80% of the retailers surveyed have seen an increase in the number of cyber attacks.
Clare Gardiner, the National Cyber Security Centre’s Director of Engagement, said:
“The NCSC is committed to helping to improve the UK’s cyber security, which is why we have worked in partnership with the British Retail Consortium to produce the BRC Cyber Security Toolkit.
“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 is working with a number of organisations to campaign for greater protections for retail workers.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary 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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