UK convenience retailers spent £209m last year in fight against crime

CCTV, external security, and cash handling and storage represented the top areas of crime prevention equipment investment among convenience store retailers in the UK, last year, new research shows.

According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) trade group’s 2020 Crime Report, c-store retailers spend £209 million on these preventative measures in 2019, at an average of £4,504 per store.

Despite these investments, crime – and, alarmingly, violent crime against shop staff – continues to be an all-too-common problem for the sector. The ACS estimates there were 50,338 incidents of violence against people working in local shops, 25% of which resulting in injury to colleagues.

It is also estimated there were 1.1 million incidents of customer theft in convenience retailing last year, costing stores £1,670 on average.

ACS’s survey was conducted between 27 November 2019 and 13 January 2020, and was answered by 67 respondents from independent, multiple and co-operative retailers. The data has been weighted to represent these store types in the same proportion as they are represented in the overall market.

James Lowman, CEO of ACS, said the report’s findings add to an “overwhelming body of evidence from academics, business groups, trade unions, and the government” showing violence against shopkeepers is a growing problem.

“We found that violence is most commonly triggered when responsible shopworkers and retailers enforce the law, like age restrictions on regulated products, or when they encounter shop thieves,” he noted, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

Lowman continued: “The government, police and justice system must change the way they identify and respond to violence and crime against local shops and the people that work in them.

“Tougher sentences for violent offenders, more effective sanctions for repeat offenders and better funding and allocation of police and courts resources are all part of the solution.”

ACS is lobbying the government to take more measures to incentivise investment in crime prevention equipment, and argues that retailers investing in CCTV to keep colleagues safe should not be hit with higher business rates bills as a result.