Retailers are being advised to take extra precautions when visiting cash and carry depots after a reported rise in thefts and robberies of high-value items including tobacco from cars and vans.

According to the Federation of Wholesale Distributors' (FWD) criminal database, a number of such incidents have occurred in recent months, and FWD believes that the government's crackdown on the supply of smuggled tobacco into the country will "see peddlers of illicit products increasingly turning to theft from wholesalers and retailers as a source of stock".

The FWD has launched an awareness campaign advising retailers on how to stay safe at the cash and carry, and leaflets are now available at depot checkouts.

The threat doesn't stop once retailers are out of the car park. A growing number are also being targeted while driving back to their stores, or while unloading outside their store, Tobacco Manufacturers' Association security liaison officer Bob Fenton told Convenience Store.

Birmingham retailer and NFRN president Parminder Singh was attacked outside his store last year while unloading the stock he had just bought at the cash and carry.

"I'd spotted a suspicious van following me out of the cash and carry so I tried to shake it off by taking a different route back. I thought it had worked when I arrived outside the store and couldn't see the van, but a minute later it arrived and a couple of men attacked me before getting away with the stock. It's vital that retailers are aware of the risks and take every precaution necessary," he said.