Our website uses cookies

Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing Essential Retail Magazine, you agree to our use of cookies.

Okay, I understand Learn more

Retail crime in the UK: what the experts say

Retail security bosses joined senior police representatives and business groups in London yesterday (1 October) to discuss how companies and local communities can better work with authorities to bring down business crime in the UK.

With retailers reportedly facing annual losses of more than £1 billion, as well as rising costs associated with online fraud, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Crime and Loss Prevention conference provided an ideal forum for debating the major issues currently concerning all parties.

DCC Sue Fish, the new national lead for business crime at the Association of Chief Police Officers, explained to delegates how there is a "critical need" for all parties to work together to help combat the problem, and it was this idea of collaboration that was reinforced as the day went on.

Discussions throughout the course of the event focused on how retail is supporting local police and business crime reduction partnerships in promoting more effective engagement, as well as what is being done to tackle violence against staff. There was also special mention of the challenge police face in tackling the rising problem of online crime.

Essential Retail has picked out some of the major talking points from the day's discussions.

Phillip Hagon, head of corporate security at Sainsbury's, said: "Supermarkets are the new place of visiting. Millions of people from a wide demography head to stores each week. What a great place for police to engage with their respective communities.

"I know we will have succeeded [in building strong relationships with the authorities] when a letter from a chief constable comes in saying they have noticed an increase in crime and they want to work with us collaboratively to drive it down."

Clint Reid, head of corporate security at Marks & Spencer, said: "A key thing [to achieve success in addressing crime] is sharing what we do with other retailers. We don't yet work together on a routine basis. We don't actually identify what works for us and say 'does it work for you?'"

Robert Hall, director, Security & Resilience Network at London First, said: "What can we bring in technology wise to identify and predict trends, as using analytics is important and enables us to employ resources accordingly? It is a challenge for us and it will cost money, but it will save us money in the long run."

Steve Middleton, profit protection manager at The Body Shop, said: "The aim [of a BRC working group that he leads] is to reduce incidences of violence against staff and change the perception that abuse is part of the job. It's about increasing awareness, simplifying the reporting and then acting on this."

Colin Cullerton, group security manager at Next, said: "With retail businesses that got into financial trouble recently, you tended to see a reduction in security services 12 to 18 months before the problems started. I don't think that is coincidental."

Graham Swallow, senior loss prevention investigator at Wilkinson, said: "There's a fear factor associated with a store worker approaching an individual they know is a thief. Retailers' business policies need to be around what they can do to prevent theft generally."

Julie Davies, business crime manager and lead at Stoke-on-Trent Business Crime Reduction Partnership, said: "We need to closely look at the definition of a business crime reduction partnership. It should deliver a national minimum service to the business community, starting locally and moving up the food chain."

Roy Smith, head of business crime and partnership team at the Metropolitan Police, said: "There are challenges around the definitions of e-crime, cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime and we need to get to grips with it much more quickly, which we are doing. It's very much top of our agenda now."

Steve Head, commander City of London Police, said: "You'll be hearing that crime is down, but that is not the case with online fraud. For the first time ever, over half of fraud on my books is cyber-enabled."

So there you have it; it is clear that there are huge strides that still need to be taken in terms of the relevant stakeholders working together to bring down business crime. The issues are wide-ranging and, in the case of cybercrime, there needs to be some decisions made as to whether the authorities throw more resources towards combating this growing and increasingly complicated problem.

The BRC's most recent report on the subject, published in January, said that overall retail crime cost the industry £1.6 billion last year. The trade body will be publishing another survey at the start of next year, when the industry should be able to see how issues surrounding theft, online fraud and other crime are being addressed.

From the discussions held at yesterday's conference it seems the industry is calling for better systems to measure the impact of business crime; clearly laid-out strategies agreed between police and the business community; and greater industry collaboration to ensure it stands a better chance of improving its chances of loss prevention.