Posted: Tue 19th Sep 2023
Groups representing small retailers have urged the government to provide £1,500 grants to be spent on new security systems as a result of a big rise in attempts to steal items from stores.
According to new data from the Office for National Statistics, shoplifting increased by 24% in England and Wales in the year to March 2023.
In a letter to policing minister Chris Philp, the Federation of Independent Retailers and the British Independent Retailers Association warned that shop crime is at record levels and it is becoming increasingly violent.
The groups said the government should provide £1,500 grants which small retailers can spend on improved security such as CCTV and panic buttons.
According to the Association of Convenience Stores and British Retail Consortium, small stores were forced to spend on average of £4,500 on security measures last year, with total losses from customer theft exceeding £2.8bn annually.
Speaking to the BBC, Benedict Selvaratnam, who runs Freshfields Market in Croydon, said he has seen a sharp rise in shoplifting during the past year:
"We're getting it from mums who are putting products in prams, we're getting it from pensioners, children and teenagers coming in on bicycles.
"We've seen a big increase in organised gangs stealing to order, whether it's coffee, honey or meats."
The Federation of Independent Retailers, warned that shops are facing a "shoplifting epidemic", made worse by the cost-of-living crisis.
It stressed that while many larger stores are rolling out more CCTV, offering workers body cameras and increasing the number of security guards, smaller retailers struggle to do the same due to tighter margins.
Muntazir Dipoti, the organisation's national president, said:
"Shop theft is not victimless. It blights the lives of independent retailers on a daily basis and has significant implications for a store's viability. I am sure that every Fed member has been affected by crime at some point, and, sadly, many incidents of shoplifting are becoming increasingly violent.
"With the cost-of-living crisis, we are seeing regular customers turning to shoplifting because they can’t afford to live.
"The burden of crime prevention shouldn't fall on retailers' shoulders. Government intervention is crucial to safeguard retailers, particularly smaller shops.
"Security measures are expensive to buy and install, and we as shop owners need support to protect ourselves, our staff and our livelihoods."
Safer Business Action Week
The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) said that shop crime isn't just having a financial impact as its members also report declining foot traffic and lost sales due to safety fears.
The group is supporting the National Business Crime Centre's Safer Business Action Week, which takes place from 16 to 22 October.
Activities during the week will focus on tackling business crime through prevention, intelligence sharing, targeted enforcement, and community engagement.
Andrew Goodacre, BIRA CEO, said:
"Independent retailers have been hit hard by theft, fraud, and violence. Urgent action is needed to protect employees and sustain vibrant high streets."
"Rising crime threatens the viability of independent shops and damages perceptions of local high streets. We hope this national week of action can raise awareness whilst delivering tangible improvements in safety and security."
Supt Patrick Holdaway, lead for the National Business Crime Centre, added:
"The week of action is an opportunity to bring police and partners together to tackle the key issues of business crime in their communities.
"Each police force taking part will be holding various crime prevention activities and initiatives to increase engagement with local businesses and retail outlets and tackle some of the most prolific offenders."
Businesses are encouraged to get involved and display the 'ShopKind' messaging in their stores.