The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has called on the Home Secretary to ensure that the wholesale sector is supported through the forthcoming crime and Justice Bill.
FWD CEO James Bielby has written to Suella Braverman to highlight the challenges wholesalers are facing, calling for police to improve prioritisation of theft at cash & carry premises and continue the funding of law enforcement measures in this area.
The FWD calls come after the announcement of a new Retail Crime Action plan agreed earlier this month between the government, policing representatives and leading retailers, and it hopes that wholesalers will receive similar support.
Key elements of the plan include a police commitment to prioritise urgently attending the scene of shoplifting instances involving violence against a shopworker, where security guards have detained an offender, or where attendance is needed to secure evidence. Police have also reaffirmed their pledge to follow up on any evidence that could reasonably lead to catching a perpetrator.
A recent crime survey by FWD where 100% of wholesalers surveyed – representing 80% of the wholesale industry – identified crime as one of their foremost concerns, primarily attributed to inadequate police responsiveness.
“FWD welcomes the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan and the government’s plans to introduce a Crime Bill in the King’s speech,” said Bielby. “However, it is vital for the wholesale industry to be considered and represented in these plans to tackle crime.”
“The food and drink wholesale sector in the UK is integral to the operation of 72,000 retailers and 350,000 caterers, the majority of which are small businesses,” he added.
“With approximately £10bn-worth of trade passing through cash & carry depots, it has become commonplace for personal belongings and purchases, including bags of tobacco worth up to £5,000, to be stolen from customers in cash & carry car parks and then sold on the unrestricted black market.
“There has also been an increase in thefts of tobacco from wholesale vehicles in transit, with limited police response.”
The trade body said that the loss of these high-value items is costing legitimate wholesale business and the Exchequer. It added that wholesalers were already playing their part by investing in crime prevention measures and in some cases, criminals have been caught on CCTV, yet cases are often unpursued by the police.
“Many thefts potentially endanger our members, their employees, and customers,” Bielby added. “Incorporating wholesale in the Crime Bill will help support both individuals and businesses.”