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Calls for action as retailers face a surge in shoplifting

19 September 2023

Business groups are calling for government action as the British Independent Retailers Association declares that rising retail crime poses a "severe threat" to shopkeepers.

Small shops are facing a sharp rise in shoplifting according to the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA). A recent British Retail Consortium survey found that there has been a 27% increase in retail crime incidents over the past 12 months. Total losses from customer theft alone now exceed £2.8 billion annually and BIRA members report declining foot traffic and lost sales due to safety fears.

Dame Sharon White, the boss of John Lewis, has told the BBC that shoplifting has become an "epidemic" in the past year.

Tackling retail crime

With rising crime posing a "severe threat to retailers", BIRA says it is supporting the upcoming Safer Business Action Week, coordinated by the National Business Crime Centre, which takes place from 16 to 22 October.

The initiative is a week of activities to tackle business crime including high visibility patrols, crime prevention training, information sharing and arrests of prolific offenders. BIRA is urging independent retailers to connect with local police to share intelligence, request crime prevention guidance and help bring regular offenders to justice.

BIRA ceo Andrew Goodacre said: "Collaboration between police, businesses and the public is essential to turn the tide. By working together, we can ensure shopping locally is safe and welcoming for all."

He added: "Rising crime threatens the viability of independent shops and damages perceptions of local high streets … Independent retailers have been hit hard by theft, fraud and violence. Urgent action is needed to protect employees and sustain vibrant high streets."

Improving retail security

Representing 10,000 small UK retailers, The Federation of Independent Retailers (The Fed) is calling on the government to tackle the problem. It has suggested that independent shops should receive a £1,500 one-off grant to help them improve security measures.

Muntazir Dipoti, The Fed president, said: "I know of members who fear for their lives inside the shops, and others who are making the decision to close up. The big supermarkets have introduced body cameras, headsets and expensive equipment, but there's no way most independent retailers can afford that."

According to the BBC, shopkeepers say the situation is getting worse because the shoplifters know police won't attend. The Metropolitan Police told the BBC it was not "realistic" for the force to respond to every case of shoplifting because of demand, but that officers would be dispatched "where appropriate". However, The Met said it was collaborating with shops across London to improve reporting of shoplifting.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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