Retail is a huge part of the UK’s economy and the industry is said to have contributed £152billion in 2011. For all the income that such a large sector manages to generate, there is also a downside. Retail crime has long been a problem in the UK and studies into this area tell their own story. Domestic retailers lost as much as £3.4billion last year due to theft from employees, supplier fraud, and shoplifting, and it is interesting to see how the different segments of this figure stack up.
Theft, errors and deception
Research was undertaken by Checkpoint Systems and Euromonitor International with The Global Retail Theft Barometer revealing the extent of shoplifting, fraud and administrative mistakes. Even as other types of crime are falling, it is clear to see how much of a recurring problem shoplifting is. The largest proportion of the missing stock, 36 per cent, was attributed to external theft. Perhaps the most alarming finding for retailers is that 33 per cent of the overall loss was down to theft from employees. Administrative or non-crime losses make up a quarter of the total loss and supplier fraud accounts for six per cent. The impact of retail crime on UK shoppers works out as an average loss of £124.60 for each household.
Reasons not to report
Past research has been carried out to ascertain exactly why so few of the incidents of theft are reported to the police by retailers. Of the retailers who were surveyed just 40.5 per cent informed police of the thieves. There were various reasons why this was the case and the most common reason (24.5 per cent) was due to it taking up too much of the staff’s time. 23.6 per cent stated that they did not want to prosecute the elderly, juveniles or those with a mental illness. 19.7 per cent of the retailers surveyed pointed to the low success rate in the courts and 18.5 per cent were put off, believing that the fines and penalties given are not enough of a deterrent. 12.9 per cent only report the worst offenders and nine per cent are afraid of the bad publicity that comes with reporting such an incident.
The level of retail crime has shot up in the past year and so too has food theft. The losses related to retail crime have increased by 6.8 per cent from 2011 and the weakened state of the economy has been cited as the overriding factor in the amount of food being stolen. It has been said that a growing number of middle-class shoppers are now stealing food as a result of the pressures being placed on average households’ finances. Beef joints and gourmet cheeses such as brie and Parmesan are reportedly the items stolen most. These are followed by gammon, bacon, mature cheddar cheese, coffee, wine and vodka.
What is being done?
In January this year, it was stated that shoplifting incidents reported to police had fallen to one in eight. The British Retail Consortium said that this indicated reported crime was merely the tip of the iceberg and that there was a more serious problem related to organised criminal activity. At this time, and naturally before the recently revealed figure of £3.4billion, it was stated that the cost of retail crime had risen to £1.6billion. This in itself represented an increase of 15.6 per cent in only a year and an ever-decreasing amount of confidence from retailers in police was discovered. In response to these issues there are more and more UK retailers who are setting aside a sizeable section of their budget for security. Among the measures taken in this regard are the implementation of tagging or cable alarms as well as the use of antennas. It has been estimated that such investments will in the future either increase or remain stable. Checkpoint Systems were responsible for the research and the company’s UK general manager, Russell Holland, said: “Over the last year, retailers have certainly been making great strides in the fight against retail crime. However, times are still tough for many families across the country, hence the increase in theft of high-value foodstuff such as fresh meat and cheese.” Young mothers are among those who have been caught stealing necessities such as groceries and the expensive price of items like baby food has been alluded to as a reason. There is however a widely shared belief that although there is genuine difficulty for many families trying to get by, it is never an excuse for theft. Some outlets have been known to help out by providing food vouchers, but stolen items actually push up food prices due to the need for shops to make up for their losses.