Sixty-three per cent of retailers have experienced theft in the past year 

Shop theft across the convenience sector has reached a record high over the past year, new research shows.

According to the ACS Voice of Local Shops survey, of over 1,200 independent retailers, almost two thirds had experienced theft in their stores, with 35% expressing it had increased, while 28% said it had stayed the same. The remaining 37% of retailers had either seen theft decrease, not experienced it at all, or weren’t sure.

Of the areas worst affected across the UK, London was at the top, with 48% of retailers saying theft had increased over the past year, compared with the 28% of retailers in the north east to report an increase.

The trade body has been tracking levels of shop theft since the start of 2012, which remained steady between 2016 and early 2021, but has since risen to record highs.

“We are extremely concerned about the continued increase in theft levels in local shops,” said ACS CEO James Lowman. ”Retailers tell us that the vast majority of incidents are committed by repeat offenders, usually well known in the area, that are stealing high-value items like meat, coffee, alcohol and household/beauty products to then sell on, either as part of an organised crime group or to fund a substance addiction.”

Lowman said that the cost of living crisis was also aggravating the issue.

“The cycle of addiction that people are battling with is responsible for most theft no matter how well or badly the economy is doing,” he said. “The difference now is that desperate people with addiction problems have to find more money to live and eat, and more money for their drugs and alcohol.

“The second biggest motivation for theft is by those that are part of organised groups. These are offenders who are stealing to sell on, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable people themselves.”

He also highlighted the personal and financial toll it was having on retailers, with theft being the biggest trigger for abuse and violence against shopworkers, as well as the ACS 2022 Crime Report showing that £246m was spent during the previous year on crime prevention measures like CCTV, security staff and alarm systems.

“We need targeted action to stop the repeat offenders that are stealing on a regular basis without any concern about being apprehended by the police,” said Lowman.