An Outline of the 2010 UK Retail Crime from British Retail Consortium

This year's retail crime survey was completed by 54 retailers, employing 1,304,931 staff and representing around 48 percent of total retail turnover.

Retail crime cost UK retailers US$1.7 billion in 2009/10, equivalent to 52,000 full-time retail jobs. There has been a reduction in all offences, with the exception of employee theft. This equates to an overall reduction of 11 percent (incidents per 100 outlets).Nevertheless, the cost of retail crime (losses through theft and damage and the cost of crime prevention measures) has remained the same as last year. This is largely attributable to the level of investment by retailers to better protect their premises and people from the increasing levels of offences recorded in last year's survey.

Retailers estimated the average level of shrinkage as 1.28 percent, expressed as a proportion of sales, although the definition of shrinkage varied between companies.

Customer theft accounted for 74 percent of all theft and damage losses by value. Compared to last year's survey the number of incidents has reduced by 11 percent. In contrast, the average value of goods stolen per incident has increased by 57 percent to $110.

Under-reporting of offences continues to be a problem with only 12 percent of recorded offences being reported to the police. The survey recorded 482,831 incidents. When the under-reporting of offences is taken in account the actual figure is likely to be far higher, in the region of 750,000 to one million offenses or even as high as two million if grossed up to account for the whole industry.

Reductions in footfall over the past 12 months will have led to increased visibility and reduced opportunities to offend.

Employee theft accounted for 5.4 percent of all retail crime by value. Recorded offences had increased by 68 percent when compared to the previous year's results. The average value stolen had however decreased by 67 percent to more than $290. This is the only offence type found to have risen in this year's survey. This increase is not, however, wholly unexpected. Retailers are investing heavily in detection tools such as data mining software. Therefore, offences are being detected sooner and, with a more stable workforce, discrepancies are frequently more apparent.

Robberies have reduced by 55 percent and accounted for two percent of retail crime by value. The average value stolen per incident fell by 59 percent from $3300 to $1300.

This reduction in offences coincides in with reduction in other violent crimes such as cash and valuable in transit robberies which are down by around 30 percent when compared with last year.

Burglaries accounted for six percent of offences. The number of incidents had reduced by 16 percent. The average value had also reduced by 39 percent.

This year's results show that, with the exception of last year's increase during the economic downturn, burglaries have been on a steady downward trend. This is largely attributable to retailers' investment to protect their businesses better from burglaries.

Criminal damage incidents reduced by 58 per cent when compared to last year. These offences often mirror the trends noted with burglaries with a large proportion (45.5 percent) of incidents being attributable to attempted burglary.

Violence against staff continues as an unacceptable threat to the health and well-being of retail's three million employees. Despite a reduction in offences, more than 18,000 retail staff reported suffering verbal or physical abuse.

In areas where there is a greater fear of violence and intimidation, retailers report a greater turnover of staff and higher incidence of sickness or absence. Unfortunately many employees appear to accept this abuse as ‘part of the job'.

The key challenges over the next year are to:
1. Ensure that retail is seen as the cornerstone of safe and vibrant communities and that retailers are involved in setting local crime priorities.

2. Collate and share examples of good practice being adopted by retailers to reduce offences.

3. Tackle the under-reporting of offences, especially those involving violence against staff, and challenge the perception that abuse is ‘part of the job'. This will become increasingly important as police begin to place greater importance on crime maps to determine local crime priorities.

4. Continue to invest in technological solutions, enhanced training of staff and make more effective use of systems and processes to reduce offences.
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