Iceland boss describes worrying shoplifting trend amid cost-of-living crisis
The boss of Iceland has said his stores are reporting more instances of shoplifting as the cost of living crisis bites.
In an interview, he said that the UK Government had to use all the levers it had “because ultimately, it’s the consumer that will pay for it and it’ll be jobs that will pay for it as well”.
Iceland boss Richard Walker, whose company is based in Deeside, told Tom Newton Dunn on Talk TV’s The News Desk he also admitted he had seen a rise in the number of shoplifters, as people struggle to afford their weekly shop.
“Some of it is just more stories that we’re hearing from our colleagues, like customers getting to the till and asking the cashier to tell them when it gets to £45 so they can stop and leave the rest in the basket or indeed the rise of shoplifting because people are really struggling out there… I get a serious incidence report every week and it is starting to tick up we are seeing that and that’s obviously because people are really struggling.”
He said the UK Government had to do more. “Whilst quite rightly, the debate is about how we’re going to help consumers and we must turn our attention to what more we can do for business because business is not some endless sponge that can forever absorb these costs. We’re going to be okay, we’re a private family-owned business. We’ve been going for 50 years and we’ve got cash reserves, but many businesses won’t. There’s no consumer price cap for business on energy,” he said.
“That’s why we urgently need the government and whoever the next Prime Minister is to start looking at more aggressive support for business. So that could come in the form of backing CBILS loans for energy costs, for example, for businesses, or a super deduction in terms of your tax bill in terms of the cost that you have to pay for energy and there’s a whole host of other things like business rates. So I think there’s many levers still that the government can pull, and they really must do so because ultimately, it’s the consumer that will pay for it. And it’ll be jobs that will pay for it as well.”
As inflation hit 10.1% today, Walker said customers who are on a tight budget of say £25 a week for food “notice every penny”.
“Those inflation figures of 10-11% it’s obviously median figures, and if you’re on the breadline, and you have no buffer to spare, actually the essentials are going up way more than that. So we’re seeing that in terms of milk, bread, etc. And our customers know it, you know, if you’ve only got, say £25a week spent on food which some of our customers do, they really notice every penny and that’s why it’s an absolute fight on the high street to try and keep prices as affordable as possible. But of course, we’re all seeing them start to rise.
“The irony is in this that actually our sales are quite healthy. We are a value-orientated retailer, so to put it another way, no one’s trading up at the moment to Waitrose. They’re all looking for the best value possible. And that’s why we are trading quite healthily. The big problem is a very tight labour market, but also controlling all of the costs and those costs are end to end throughout the supply chain – that’s commodity price pressure is transportation and fuel but it’s also operational cost in terms of the likes of our electricity bill, which having a lot of fridges and freezers you can imagine is rising rapidly.”
Mr Walker also said the situation was on a par with the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “Yes, I think, this is akin in terms of a crisis to that, obviously very different characteristics, but we need the Government to step in and use all of the resources at their capacity to try and help.”
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