The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey reveals a concerning spike in violence against shop staff causing injury, with the number of incidents happening at twice the rate of last year’s survey (which held the previous record).
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 to £700 million. 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 year. That’s a 15% increase on the previous results.
The biggest concern emanates from the growth in severe violent incidents against staff. 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 increasing violence and threats.
The rate of incidents of violence with injury has doubled since the previous year to six per 1,000 members of staff.
Facing up to challenges
Commenting on the findings, Helen Dickinson OBE (CEO of the BRC) said: “Retail directly employs nearly one in every ten workers in the UK, and millions more indirectly. The sector already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking. Against that backdrop, the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact. That’s why we are working to build a new model for co-operation around tackling retail crime and encourage decision-makers throughout the country to apply the priority these issues deserve.”
Dickinson continued: “In particular, the figures on violence present a deeply concerning picture. Attacks on retail workers are intolerable. Our members are completely clear that keeping their staff safe and providing an environment in which they can work free of fear from threats and violence is their first priority. Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that their members of staff and customers are safe and protected, but they’re now spending record amounts on crime prevention in order to do so. This is a drag on the economic viability of shops and not infinitely sustainable. A new approach is required. Working with our key partners, we at the BRC are seeking to deliver an agreed strategy that will halt violence and abuse in its tracks.”
Direct cost of retail crime
The BRC’s Retail Crime Survey covers the period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 and 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 per 1,000. workers. At that rate, across all roles in retail 13 individuals were injured every day of the year under survey.
The direct cost of customer theft has grown 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 on (non-cyber) crime prevention in 12 weeks as they did in the whole of the previous year. Nearly half of respondents have seen an increase in the number of cyber attacks in the last year.