helen dickinson brc

The British Retail Consortium wants action from government and police after reporting a big increase in the costs of crime to retailers.

The BRC said the cost of crime to the industry was now at a record high, up 2% to £613m in 2014-15, according to its annual Retail Crime Survey.

There was a 28% increase in offences of abuse or violence, now totalling 41 out of every 1,000 crimes, compared with 32 in 2013-14, while the average value of theft by a customer was also at an all-time record, up 35% to £325, the highest since 2004-05.

The total number of incidents fell, for the second year running, to 750,144 reported, down 2% on 2013-14. Extrapolated across the industry, that was an estimated 4.1 million offences.

“In recent years, our survey has indicated that retailers are increasingly targets for theft by organised criminal groups, which is driving up the impact of this offence,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE.

“This year’s results continue to provide evidence of this trend, with almost one third of these incidents reported to be perpetrated by an organised criminal gang. Ensuring that theft receives an appropriate response from the police remains an important priority for businesses.”

The BRC said industry experts concluded the record cost of the average theft against the overall fall in number showed crime was increasingly being carried out by sophisticated criminals stealing to order.

This conclusion was borne out by data showing that fraud rose by 55% and now accounted for 36% of the total cost of retail crime, with cyber-attacks also up or remaining unchanged in most cases.

Dickinson said fraud and cyber-crime were finally starting to get the attention they deserved from the government.

“We hope that the next year will see the introduction of a new fit-for-purpose Action Fraud reporting system for retailers. Overall, however, there remains a worrying lack of capacity across law enforcement to respond effectively to the fraud threat facing both businesses and the public. In fact, 89% of respondents reported no improvement in the service that their businesses receive from the police once a fraud has been reported,” she explained.

“This makes prevention all the more vital, and we would like to see a comprehensive, national fraud awareness campaign form a central part of the Home Office’s new Crime Prevention Strategy.”

Retailers were keen to work in partnership to reduce retail crime, Dickinson added, and their support for some innovative partnership initiatives demonstrated this commitment.

The MOPAC Business Crime strategy in London continued to act as an example of best practice, which the BRC wanted to see adopted elsewhere.

Other interesting projects in development, such an agreement between The Co-operative Group and Nottinghamshire Police, demonstrated how crime could be dealt with nationally by all forces, Dickinson said.

“Tightening police budgets inevitably presents difficult choices about policing resources and priorities. This makes the case for police and businesses to tackle retail crime together even stronger.”

As well as thefts by customers, cyber-crime and fraud, the total cost of retail crime includes robbery, thefts by employees, burglary, criminal damage, and prevention.

The BRC’s report includes a series of recommendations, which it has pledged to work with law enforcement agencies to implement.

“They have called for retailers to be consulted when crime-fighting priorities are agreed, whether at a national or local level, and have suggested a series of improvements to national measurements of the impact of retail crime across the UK,” Dickinson said.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) expressed dismay at the new statistics exposed in the BRC survey.

National president Ralph Patel said retail crime was the biggest challenge facing independent retailers.

“Hardly a day goes by when a retailer or employee somewhere has not faced violence or abuse,” Patel said.

“With these latest statistics revealing huge jumps in the cost of crime and in violent crimes against retailers, is it any wonder that confidence in the police’s ability to apprehend those responsible or even to the response to reported incidents of crime continue to plummet?

“For those very reasons, the NFRN has earmarked 2016 as the year that we step up efforts to raise awareness of the blight that retail crime causes and ensure that police, government and retailers work together to make sure that it is tackled once and for all.”