The British Retail Consortium’s annual crime survey will be published next week looking at the incidence and type of crime suffered by retailers.
In the run-up to its publication, The Grocer visited AC Ward’s cash & carry in Sudbury to ask independent retailers about their experiences of crime.
All of them say their stores have been the target of criminal activity at least once, but encouragingly, most say this hasn’t been in the past week or month. That said, many confirm they have little faith in getting a quick response from the police if they do report a crime.
Colin Bowles, owner of Ship Stores in Clare, says the idyllic Suffolk village rarely attracts criminal activity and he knows most of his customers well. “On the negative side, I am suspicious of everyone I don’t know,” he says.
Bowles says his store, which he lives above, has been broken into twice in five years, causing a lot of stress. “After the second time we decided to remove the cigarettes from the store every night. Although the shop is insured against this, I prefer to remove the cigarettes so I can sleep at night. This is also the reason I won’t get a cash machine.”
Bowles says smuggling is now so commonplace that if someone walks round a pub selling cigarettes, people don’t tend to think they have been stolen from a store, so they are easy to sell.
“Drinks are an attraction but they are noisy and harder to carry. It only took about a minute to clear out £2,000-worth of my cigarettes,” says Bowles.
Bowles has installed an iron bar across the front of his store for when he closes up, and plans to update his CCTV.
John Stewart, who runs Strawberry Stores in Sudbury, agrees cigarettes are the greatest attraction for criminals. “Not a day goes by when a crime isn’t committed in one of my two stores. It’s mainly petty crimes by amateurs, usually children.”
Stewart says he has had to implement rules such as limiting the amount of schoolchildren in the store at one time.
“I don’t feel as though I am supported by the police. It can take up to an hour for someone to turn up,” says Stewart.
Conversely, Jackie Lovric, owner of Mount Hill Garages forecourt store, Sudbury, says when a member of her staff once had to report a crime, she was very satisfied with the police response. “The police came quickly, advising us to lock up the store. The staff member was kept informed and was later told the criminal had been arrested, which was comforting.”
Lovric said her store has rarely been targeted by criminal activity but believes the open layout and CCTV help.