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December 7, 2023


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retail crime

Retail Crime: The increased impact on UK retailers and strategies for prevention

In this article, IFSEC Insider hears from security gates and barriers manufacturer, Newgate, as it looks at the problem of retail crime in the UK and the preventative measures that businesses can take.

Retail crime has been in the news a lot recently as it seems to be on the rise. A sad reality is that much of this is never dealt with by over-stretched police forces who find it difficult to make it a priority. The lack of penalties and a cost-of-living crisis have meant that these crimes are now accelerating at a rapid rate, but it is businesses who are left counting the costs, which can be massive.

The responsibility now lies with retailers to protect themselves from crime in whatever ways they can in order to minimise the impact on their businesses.

Retail crime in the UK

The subject of retail crime is probably taking up more headlines that it ever has before. This is because the number of incidents that are being recorded now seem to be astronomical. In a study conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), figures suggest that the number of retail theft incidents has grown to a whopping eight million per year, but shoplifting prosecutions have actually decreased by 73.5% in England and Wales over the last 10 years.

There can sometimes be a tendency to believe that this is a victimless crime, but when you consider that retail theft has accounted for around £953 million in losses, it is clear that the impact on businesses, the people who run them and the people who work for them, is huge.

Much of this rise is being blamed on some of the worst inflation rates in decades, making it hard for household budgets to stretch as far as they need to. This might explain why the theft of items such as meat, alcohol and confectionary are at highs that have not been seen for many years.

Further reading: Retail theft: The growing frontline threat in a cost-of-living squeeze?

Many retailers are now finding that a number of shoplifters are committing the crime for the first time, both because they have reached desperate levels and because it appears to have become more socially acceptable. As the police rarely attend stores when shoplifting is reported, many incidents simply go unpunished, and therefore more people feel as though they can get away with doing it.

Another cause of retail crime comes from organised crime gangs who now employ people to steal things to order. These target high value items that can be sold on to make a profit for the thieves. These gangs are able to commit more complex crimes and are able to enlist the help of vulnerable people, not caring about what becomes of them.

Theft prevention strategies


Image credit: Shutterstock

With retail crime growing at such an alarming rate, it is only natural that retailers are now considering what options they have to protect themselves.

Visible security 

Visible security is always a popular method, as it can make shoplifters think twice. If they are aware of the security measures that are in place, they will understand that there is a much greater chance of being caught and abort their mission.

Generally, thieves are looking for easy targets who have little in place to stop them so make sure cameras are clear, there are warning signs on display and staff members who engage with customers so that they know they have been seen.

Crime mapping

Crime mapping can be an effective technique at reducing thefts as it allows you to identify the areas of your store where it happens most frequently. You can then address whether this is a surveillance blackspot, whether shelves could be lowered, or if it should be moved to a more visible part of the building. Once you understand where your weak points are, you can take measures to address them.

Physical security 

Image credit: The Nix company / Unsplash

Many businesses are now also investing in physical security measures such as barriers and gates. These help to control who can be on site at any given point and can limit the type of vehicles that can get close to your store.

These can be designed to fit any site and can operate manually or automatically but can be very effective in preventing an unauthorised access. By installing car park security measures, you are able to control the flow of traffic around your premises, ensuring that it is safer and easier to monitor.

Many gates can also be combined with ANPR technology which can alert you to certain unauthorised vehicles entering your site and storing the details of those who have made a quick getaway.

Many thefts tend to take place during the busiest times of the year, such as the pre-Christmas rush and the January sales, so it can be advisable to manage the flow of people through your business effectively.

Further reading: Tackling the retail crime epidemic with technology – Are body-worn cameras the answer?

This could take the form of pedestrian gates or turnstiles that can help you to manage queues and ensure that there are not too many people in one place at the same time. By controlling the numbers in your store, you can then monitor behaviour more effectively, and potential criminals may think twice when they realise that they do not have the cover of lots of other shoppers around them.

Electronic tags

Electronic tags are a familiar site on many items these days, and we have even seen them being added to cheese and butter in recent years.

These not only alert staff to a theft as the shoplifter leaves the store, but it also renders the item useless if the tag has not been removed in the proper way, meaning that there is no value in stealing the item in the first place.

Most shoplifters look for some form of cover from boxes, pallets and trolleys, so try and keep your store tidy and free of clutter wherever you can, in order to give people less things to hide behind.

Retail crime is certainly growing, and unfortunately it shows no signs of slowing down. Retailers can no longer bear the brunt of this as costs soar and so it is now more important than ever to protect your business.

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