Stores Face Retail Crime Crisis as Violence and Shoplifting Soar

Posted: 20 Mar, 2024.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has released its annual Crime Survey for 2024, revealing a disturbing trend in violence targeting shop workers, shoplifting and organised crime.

Key findings from the 2024 Crime Report include:

  • 87% of convenience store staff have been verbally abused by customers
  • 5.6 million thefts against retail stores were reported
  • 76% of retailers believe organised crime has become more prevalent over the last year
  • Only 42% of all retail crime is reported by retailers to the police

The report revealed that there were an estimated 76,000 violent incidents in the past year, compared to 41,000 in 2022/23 – nearly double the number of attacks. This rise in aggression, alongside the staggering shoplifting figures, paints a concerning picture of the safety and wellbeing of retail workers.

For the report, Mohammed Rajak, Director, Buywell Day Today commented:

“Too often shopworkers have to deal with violence. No one should be physically attacked at work.”

In addition to violent incidents, a startling 87% of convenience store staff have reported experiencing verbal abuse from customers in the past year, amounting to 1.2 million incidents. Among these incidents, 34% have been identified by retailers as hate-motivated, highlighting a distressing trend of discrimination and intolerance within retail settings.

From our own research, it’s clear that the impact of this crime is significant, leading to reduced feelings of safety in the workplace, employee absences and high staff turnover. Paul Gerrard, Campaigns, Public Affairs and Board Secretariat Director, at The Co-op commented

“The rising levels of shop theft, violent crime and abuse threatens the wellbeing of retail staff.”

This is backed up by figures from the Retail Trust, revealing that 1/5 of retail workers want to leave the industry and 84% say their mental health has deteriorated over the last year.

Retailers in the UK are also experiencing a surge in shoplifting, with figures revealing 5.6 million thefts reported in the past year. This is a fivefold increase from the previous years’ figures and translates to a shocking 600 shoplifting cases every hour.

The ACS suggests the rising cost of living may be a contributing factor, with two-thirds of retailers believing it has led to an increase in shoplifting. Additionally, more than three-quarters of retailers suspect organised crime rings are playing a bigger role than ever before.

Considering the cost of investigating and fighting crime, the total cost of crime to convenience stores is estimated to be £245m, resulting in a 10p crime on every transaction in every store across the UK. This is up 67% from 6p in the 2023 Crime Report.

To combat this, retailers are investing in crime prevention and detection measures, with £339m spent over the last year in areas like CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems. However, the prevalence of high crime rates is driving up operating costs, leading to increased prices for customers at an already challenging time.

Key findings from the report also shed light on a troubling disparity between actual retail crime and reported incidents, with only 42% of all retail crime being reported to the police by retailers. Although this marks a significant increase from the previous year’s reporting rate of 16%, several factors contribute to this low reporting rate.

The most common reasons for not reporting were a lack of confidence in follow-up investigations, a perceived lack of interest from police and the time it takes to file and process reports. Despite efforts to address these concerns, there remains a critical need for improved communication and collaboration between retailers and law enforcement agencies to effectively combat retail crime and ensure the safety of both employees and customers.

ACS chief executive James Lowman commented on the report’s findings:

“The figures in our report demonstrate that more needs to be done urgently. Nobody should have to come to work and face what retailers and their colleagues have faced over the last year.”

The ACS is calling for action from the government and law enforcement to address the growing problems identified in the report. Measures they propose include:

The findings of the Crime Survey make it clear that the safety and wellbeing of retail staff are under significant threat. Urgent action is needed from law enforcement and the government to prioritise retail crime, improve reporting systems, and ensure the safety of our essential retail workers. We must never allow ourselves to think that retail crime is simply ‘part of the job.’ Everyone should have the right to go to work and not fear for their safety.

So, while traditional investments in crime prevention technology have been made, the surge in incidents indicates a need for a new approach. Peoplesafe offers simple personal safety technology, designed to enhance staff safety in the face of rising threats.

Personal safety alarms offer an affordable solution that increases the safety and wellbeing of employees. Where in-store CCTV systems may cost thousands of pounds, personal safety alarms provide a significantly cheaper alternative for near-instant access to an emergency response and improved peace of mind. Overt personal safety technology, such as Body Worn Cameras, acts as a deterrent to abuse, with studies showing a 47% reduction in incidents. Additionally, this technology can make a difference to recruitment and retention efforts, as 50% of employees would consider a front-line role if equipped with safety tech.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Receive quarterly emails with the latest Peoplesafe developments including product and technology innovations, upcoming events and industry news and tips.

© 2024 Skyguard Ltd T/A Peoplesafe. Company Registration Number: 04107459. All rights reserved. Peoplesafe is part of the Send for Help Group.