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Theft and violence costing retailers hundreds of thousands of pounds per year, new figures reveal

By Alan Beresford

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Theft and violence is costing retailers a significant amount per year.
Theft and violence is costing retailers a significant amount per year.

NEW figures lay bare the true cost of crime to the high-street in the face of an alarming rise in theft and violence.

The research from commercial insurer NFU Mutual shows that nearly three-quarters of retailers (74 per cent) surveyed have suffered from crime over the past 12 months – costing shops an average of almost £60,000 in that time. Shockingly, the research found that one in 20 retailers had lost half a million pounds to crime over the same time period.

In a bid to try and combat the costly and widespread issue, almost two-thirds of retailers say they have had to take security measures in the last year alone. That includes a variety of physical and technological protection, with a quarter employing full-time security and 66 per cent installing CCTV.

Some businesses have resorted to more drastic measures to protect staff, with 32 per cent training employees on safety and self-defence, and just shy of a quarter giving staff both bodycams (24 per cent) and nearly as many giving staff panic alarms on their person and on counters (23 per cent).

Zoe Knight, Head of Commercial at NFU Mutual, said: “Our study shows a worrying number of our retailers are falling victim to crime, which continues to plague our shops, and more than eight in 10 (81%) believe it has increased in the last year.

“With retailers on average suffering losses of around £60,000 a year as a result of theft, the results of this survey will concern the industry.

“And the impact of this ongoing crime wave clearly extends way beyond a cost perspective, with a worrying number saying incidents have had a negative impact on their mental health and others constantly living in fear they will be targeted.

“What is clear, and important to see, is people are making a huge effort to protect their stock, staff and premises. While it does come at a cost, we would urge all retailers to do everything they can to deter thieves to feel as protected and supported as they can, should the worst happen.”

The most common type of crime retailers have suffered was the theft of goods from the shopfloor or stockroom in working hours (48 per cent), with verbal violence or assault against staff and customers (38 per cent), overnight theft (23 per cent), criminal damage (20 per cent) and theft of money from tills or safe (13 per cent ) also featuring highly.

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services’ advice for retailers to protect against shoplifting:

• Use customer service as a tool to deter thieves – greeting them lets them know they have been acknowledged and may deter them as they have been identified.

• Make sure store layouts are organised and tidy, placing high-value or items which are more desirable for thieves in monitorable areas. Consider adding mirrors to the store to reduce blind spots.

• If possible, limit the number of high value items on display and secure remaining stock within a robust, lockable area.

• Train staff to recognise shoplifting tactics and ensure they know how to keep themselves safe from the risk of violence.

• Consider displaying signage in-store notifying thieves that they will be prosecuted.

• Try to minimise cash takings and use counter caches to deposit cash during opening hours. Install a good quality compliant safe which is fixed in place and preferably kept in an alarm protected area.

The insurers’ advice for retailers to protect against break-ins:

•Ensure all doors and windows have good quality locks (to BS3621) which cannot be opened from the outside or from the inside without the use of a key.

• Always keep keys to doors, windows, and safes, in a secure location. Always remove them from your premises outside of business hours and limit their distribution amongst managers or staff.

• Consider investing in good shutters, grilles and bars on doors and windows.

• If investing in an intruder alarm, ensure it is installed by a NSI or SSAIB approved company, compliant to EN1350-1 and provides remote signalling to an alarm receiving centre.

• If investing in surveillance (CCTV) ensure it provides good quality images, is recorded to the cloud with links to mobiles and/or remote monitoring, and meets requirements of GDPR.

• Be aware of cyber threats and make sure you have cyber insurance in place should the worst happen.

• Consider hiring data protection specialists to provide ongoing security of your data.

• Have a robust policy in place for responding to intruder alarm activations ie don't let a keyholder turn up on their own.

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