Whenever we talk to retailers about the biggest issues they face on a day-to-day basis, the number one thing that comes up time and again is crime. Whether it’s repeated thefts by organised groups looking to steal high-value items to sell on, verbal abuse from customers, or more serious robberies, burglaries and violent attacks, crime is a problem that affects just about everyone in our sector.
On a UK-wide level, the cost of crime to the whole sector is significant and shocking. Our 2019 Crime Report shows that over the past year, crime has cost convenience stores more than £246m – the biggest contributor to this being theft by customers. We estimate that there have been more than a million incidents of theft over the past year, with most being committed by repeat offenders. It’s little wonder then that the biggest trigger for abuse in stores is challenging thieves. Retailers and their staff are frustrated with the lack of consistency of police response and resort to challenging those who are taking away their livelihoods. While we understand this frustration, our message to the sector is very clear: people are always more important than property.
When we talk to the government and police about the impact of crime, the big numbers about UK impact are important, but they don’t tell the real story. The real impact of crime is the effect that it has on people working in and running shops, especially those who have been victim to assaults, armed robberies, threats and violence. Many retailers will be able to reel off a list of incidents where they’ve been threatened with weapons, assaulted or worse. Any one of these incidents can take a huge personal toll, and it’s that impact that cannot be underestimated.
One of the things that we’re doing to try to help tackle the abuse and aggressive behaviour that retailers and shopworkers are subjected to is a campaign with the Home Office, Crimestoppers and the rest of the retail sector to encourage people working in stores, and indeed customers, to always report abuse when incidents occur. Abusive behaviour is never justifiable, never acceptable, and always needs to be reported.