BRC survey reveals spiralling cost of retail crime

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey has revealed the vast cost of retail 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 (£1.7 billion). This was made up of £900 million direct costs from retail crime, and £1 billion spent on 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 £1.9 billion, 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 with customer theft or fraud, only 20% of respondents considered the response good or excellent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson 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 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.”

The poll also found that retailers are spending 17% more on cyber security than last year (£162 million), and nearly 80% of the retailers surveyed had seen an increase in the number of cyber attacks.

The BRC Retail Crime Survey covers the period from April 1 2017 to March 31 2018 and includes the responses of surveys that collectively control 11,000 stores and £103 billion of turnover, equivalent to just under one-third of the retail market. This year’s sample group had a slightly higher proportion of online retailers, reflecting wider industry trends.

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