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Retail crime costs rise to £1.4 billion

Results of the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2011 have shown that the overall cost of retail crime has soared by 31% to £1.4 billion in the last year as the sector is increasingly targeted by organised criminals.


Retail crime costs rise to £1.4 billion

Although there were fewer incidents for many types of crime, each incident on average was more costly with expenditure on crime prevention by retailers taking part in the survey rising by 1.4% to £214 million. The BRC said this had substantially reduced incidents of opportunistic crime against stores but argued that combating the rise in violent crime against retailers required  the support of law makers and enforcers.

The number of robberies increased by 20% in the year and the average cost per incident went up 17% from £847 to £989. There were also increases in the use of weapons and physical violence reported.

The survey found that more than 35,000 retail workers suffered from physical attacks, verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour during the course of the year, excluding staff affected by the August riots. There were 26 incidents per 1,000 employees last year, an increase of 83% on 2009/10. The rise was partly attributed to staff being encouraged to report threats and incidents of verbal assault.

The August riots had an impact on more than 20,000 retail staff, representing 1.5% of retail employees. 56% of retailers affected by the riots also reported a negative impact on sales in the immediate aftermath of the disturbances.

The estimated total value of goods stolen by customers across the sector was over £147 million, up £10 million on the previous year. Customer theft accounted for nearly 60% of the cost of crime for the retailers in the survey with the number of customer thefts between 1.5 and 2 million a year, more than one every minute. The number of incidents fell by 19% compared with the previous year but losses still rose as costs per incident went up 21% to £85.50, from £70.44 in 2009/10.

The number of burglaries per 100 stores was down 42% but the cost per incident rose sharply by 83%. The average value of goods taken in a burglary was more than £2,000.

Incidents of fraud increased significantly with 78% of retailers seeing a rise. The BRC said this now accounts for more than 28% of retail crime by cost, second only to customer theft.

Commenting on the figures, British Retail Consortium director general, Stephen Robertson, said: "Retailers have made significant investment to protect their staff, stock and premises from opportunistic crime. The falling number of many types of crime is testament to the sector's own efforts.

"What is left is a core of more serious and organised criminals who are making off with goods in larger quantities and of higher value. These are violent law-breakers who pose a danger to society at large, not solely the retail sector."

He added: "Criminals targeting the retail sector need to be punished appropriately, particularly those who use weapons or attack staff. New sentencing guidelines coming into force today that recognise the impact of the riots are a start but need to go further. 

"An understanding of the link between retail crime and serious, organised crime is particularly important as the Government moves forward with its plans for a National Crime Agency and directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. Retail crime doesn't only affect shops and retail staff." 


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