The results of an exclusive survey on shoplifting - commissioned last month by Convenience Store - makes for shocking reading. The poll of 100 retailers by market research company The Knowledge Store reveals that 50% have seen an increase in shoplifting in the past year, with only 11% witnessing a decline.
Shoplifting has now become a daily burden for 20% of independents who experience it every day. A further 6% see a shop theft twice a week, while 13% experience shoplifting in their stores weekly, and 12% every couple of weeks.
What's more, 77% of retailers believe that the police don't treat shoplifting seriously. This is reflected in the figures that show 64% try to physically apprehend an offender themselves, while only 30% rely on CCTV evidence, and 41% claim that evidence they've presented to the police hasn't been used.
And with such a large proportion of retailers attempting to detain an offender themselves, most say those incidents lead to violence - 63% of retailers report that trying to physically apprehend an offender has led to violent and aggressive behaviour.
The figures also reveal that prosecuting shoplifters is virtually pointless, as 34% claim that their reports to the police never lead to a conviction, and a further 23% say a successful prosecution happens less than 10% of the time.
Just 2% says a report to the police always leads to a conviction.
Kishor Patel, Nisa Local, Houghton Regis
"We get on average about one shoplifting incident a week. Small shoplifts have decreased slightly in the past year, but we've seen an increase in till snatches - we've had seven or eight in past five or six months. We can lose as little as £20, but on a couple of occasions it's been about £200.
"We also went through a phase of basket thefts, where thieves fill up a basket, wait for the right opportunity, then run. We must have lost about 10 or 12 baskets worth £25-£30 each. But we've now put in stricter controls such as more CCTV cameras, improved visibility and increased staff training. We also applied a zero tolerance policy so that everyone was reported to the police. We circulate pictures of the offender among other traders in the area and that leads to a prosecution for quite a few of them. Offenders then get to know that this store isn't going to work for them.
"About three out of 10 incidents that we report lead to a conviction. We get more co-operation from the police because they know they'll get all the evidence they need from us. It's rare that they don't respond.
"We do physically apprehend offenders ourselves. If we're going to stop someone at the door, we have a couple of staff on standby and they tend to quieten down. But we have had times when they've got violent."
Farhana Mohammed, Nisa Local, Isleworth, Middlesex
"We get a couple of shoplifting incidents a week. There's a college next door so the students try it on, but it's very petty. I like to think the level of shoplifting has decreased a bit because we've built up quite a good relationship with the security team at the college. They're supportive and we've got good security cameras.
"If we catch a student on camera, the guard from the college comes to identify them and the student gets suspended. They treat it very seriously.
"Shoplifting is more of a nuisance than a burden on the business because when you try to pursue it, you spend a lot of valuable time speaking to the police and nothing happens.
"It's a waste of time going to the police so we go down the route of informing the college.
"When we do report it to the police, we always follow it through, but it's a waste of time. If there's been any violence or aggression, we always report it, even if it's just a bottle of Coke, likewise if it's not a student.
"There have been two incidents where we've prosecuted and my husband and I both went to court, but the case was dropped in the end and the offenders just got cautions because they were first offences.
"I wouldn't say the police haven't used the CCTV evidence we've provided in these occasions, but it's the system that doesn't follow it through. The police are frustrated with the system as well.
"I take it personally when someone tries to shoplift but I try not to physically apprehend them and discourage my staff from doing so. Some of them have grabbed offenders and pulled them back into the shop, though, but it causes such a scene and I discourage it.
"I've had my nose broken by a young lady who was out of it and jumping on the freezers. I told her to leave and give back the bottle of Coke in her hand and she threw it in my face."
Shoplifting : the facts
How often do you get a shoplifting incident in your store?
Twice a week 6
Every couple of weeks 12
Less often 49
Q2Has shoplifting increased, decreased or stayed the same in the past year?
Stayed the same 39
Q3 Do you think the police consider shoplifting as a serious crime?
Q4 Do you always report shoplifters to the police?
Q5 Has your level of reporting changed in recent years?
About the same as always 74
I used to report shoplifters more often 19
I used to report shoplifters less often 7
Q6 How often do reports to the police lead to a conviction?
Less than 10% of the time 23
25% of the time 10
About 50% of the time 1
Most of the time 8
Don't know 22
Q7 Have you ever presented evidence to the police that hasn't been used?
Don't know 22
Q8 Do you ever physically apprehend an offender yourself or do you rely on CCTV?
Physically apprehend 64
Rely on CCTV 30
Do nothing 6
Q9 Does a physical apprehension ever lead to violence?
Source: The Knowledge Store, week beginning October 23