The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) detailed annual Retail Crime Survey for 2017 reveals a concerning spike in violence against shop staff causing injury, with the number of incidents occurring at twice the rate of the prior survey (which, in point of fact, held the previous record).
BRC members report that career criminals intentionally use violence and abuse when challenged over stealing. The increasingly common requirement for retail colleagues to age-check and refuse sales is also triggering an uptick in violence and threat episodes.
Overall, this year’s survey presents a mixed picture. There have been noticeable improvements in some areas, such as fraud, where the cost to retailers has fallen by nearly £30 million as a result of their significant investment in prevention. Despite that spending, though, the total direct financial cost of retail crime has climbed. That represents an increase of 6% from the previous year. ‘Customer theft’ remains the largest element. This now weighs in at over half a billion pounds per annum. That’s a 15% increase on the previous results.
The BRC’s Retail Crime Survey covers the period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March last year and encompasses the experiences of 1.1 million employees (accounting for approximately one third of the retail industry). The total direct cost of retail crime has risen to just over £700 million. The rate of reported violence with injury has doubled in a year to six episodes per 1,000 workers. At that rate, across all roles in retail, an average of 13 individuals were injured each day of the 12-month period under survey.
The direct cost of customer theft has burgeoned by £65 million (or nearly 15%), while the direct cost of fraud has reduced by £27 million (or just under 15%).
On average, retailers spent around the same amount of money on (non-cyber) crime prevention in 12 weeks as they did in the whole of the previous year. Nearly half of respondents to the study have witnessed an increase in the number of cyber attacks over the last year.
Commenting on the startling findings, Helen Dickinson OBE (CEO of the BRC) stated: “Retail directly employs nearly one in every ten workers in the UK, as well as millions more indirectly. The sector already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking. Set against this backdrop, the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact.”
Dickinson went on to observe: “The figures on violence against staff in particular present a deeply concerning picture. Attacks on retail workers are intolerable. Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that their members of staff and customers alike are safe and protected, but they’re now having to spend record amounts on crime prevention in order to do so. This is a drag on the economic viability of retail outlets and not infinitely sustainable. It’s clear that a new approach is required.”
Importantly, the BRC is working to build a new model for co-operation around tackling retail crime and encouraging decision-makers throughout the country to apply the priority level the key issues deserve. This is absolutely the right course of action.