Crime can have a serious impact on retailers, especially in areas where it's unexpected, reports Ronan Hegarty

"It'll never happen to me." These five words have been the downfall of many and Steve Morris, a Londis retailer in Pontesbury, near Shrewsbury, is no exception.
Steve feels that complacency is the biggest danger for convenience retailers in the fight against crime. This, he says, is particularly true of retailers who operate in so-called low crime areas.
For 10 years Steve had run his store in what he considered to be a leafy, affluent area, where crime was rare. Indeed, in that decade he had gone about his business untroubled by the threat of crime, except for the odd instance of shoplifting.
Steve was proud of the business he had built up and the good relationships he had with his customers. Like many other retailers, he made the boast: "I know everyone who comes into my shop, and we never have any trouble."
This was his view, that is, until February, when his rural idyll was shattered by two armed men who crashed into his store.
It was five in the morning and Steve was setting up for the day and enjoying a cup of tea to help get himself going. Then he was grabbed from behind and wrestled to the ground by the men who were wearing masks.
Steve was forced at gunpoint into the office, where the attackers got him to open the safe and hand over the contents. They made their getaway, leaving Steve tied up and helpless on the office floor.
The robbers were not caught. The store had CCTV but Steve admits he didn't make as good a use of it as he could have as he was working under the impression that he was not in any danger.
It became clear that the store had been a soft target for the determined criminal. Another worrying realisation after the attack was that Steve didn't know his customers as well as he thought he did.
"It's taken a long while to get over the incident," says Steve. "I look at my CCTV a lot more and realise just how many people I don't know."
As a result of the attack, Steve has developed better working practices to deter criminals and has beefed up the security and surveillance of the premises. He no longer opens up with just one person and has changed his banking arrangements to include Sunday collections, making a repeat attack seem less appealing.
He has also now enhanced the CCTV at the store and installed digital deadlocks, something he thought may have seemed like overkill in such a quiet location before the robbery.

Steve's terrible ordeal shows just how easy it can be to fall prey to criminals and how painful an attack can be to a small retailer, not just in terms of the financial cost, but also the psychological damage that can be done. However, Steve would like to use his experience to prompt other retailers re-examine their own stores and assess whether or not they could do more to prevent themselves from becoming targets.
He has a clear message for his fellow retailers: "Don't let pride get in the way. These incidents are not personal, but are usually opportunist, so act now."

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