UK stores count the cost of £1 billion ‘shoplifting epidemic’ placing major pressure on retailers

For the first time, stores are having to resort to invest in additional security tagging of luxury brands including Ferrero Rocher, to stem a major rise in shoplifting. Pic: Ferrero

Latest figures have revealed that retail thefts of food and drink ranges in the UK, including of key premium confectionery and snacks segments, have totalled nearly £1 billion, doubling in the past three years amid the cost of living crisis, writes Neill Barston.

An investigation by the Guardian Newspaper found that major stores, including Co-op had taken significant measures to combat the situation, with product ranges, such as Ferrero Rocher, as well as a host of other category items, all now having additional security tagging on individual items, representing an unprecedented move for the sweets and snacks sector.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), retailers in Britain have been forced to pay out a staggering £1 billion in anti-theft devices, which have so far failed to stem the rate of thefts from stores, with many retailers reporting threats of abuse and violence from offenders.

Furthermore, in its investigation, the Guardian said that Co-Op had reported its highest level of retail crime ever, recording 1,000 incidents a day, with the group reportedly stating that police were unable to respond to 71% of the cases it raised, leading it to consider whether some of its branches were financially viable to continue operating such has been the deteriorating trading environment.

It is far from the only retailer experiencing major issues, with Dame Sharon White, chair of John Lewis describing an ‘epidemic of shoplifting’ across the UK, which has been mirrored by research from the Association of Convenience Stores, representing 33,000 smaller retailers, stating crime rates were at their worst ever, with 1.1 million incidents reported to police last year.

For its part, the BRC has continued its campaign to back new legislation for violent offences against retailers, ,which last year resulted in a amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act to protect employees working in stores.

Speaking recently on the issue, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Every time I speak with retailers, crime is getting worse. Thieves are becoming bolder, and more aggressive. Violence and abusive behaviour are on the rise. Many employees are facing threats with weapons, physical assault, and racial and sexual abuse. While these confrontations might be over in a matter of minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime.

“Retailers are playing their part, investing nearly £1bn into crime prevention measures in the past year alone. But more needs to be done. We know that Andy Burnham and Kate Green will be concerned about the impact of such crime on local retail workers, so we ask them to ensure Manchester’s police force is giving retail crime the focus and resources it so desperately needs. Everyone working in Manchester deserves the right to go to work without fear and we must all help in stamping out this scourge of crime once and for all.”

Confectionery Production has also approached the Food and Drink Federation for further comment on the ongoing situation, which is continuing to threaten the viability of stores around the country, according to sector studies this year.

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