The overall cost of retail crime in the UK has soared by 15.6% in a year to £1.6bn as the sector is targeted by serious, organised criminals.
But the The British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2012 pdf, reports that the proportion of shoplifting incidents reported to police has fallen to one in eight, suggesting that officially reported crime could be the tip of the iceberg.
The £1.6bn figure covers retail crime of all types and includes the value of goods stolen and damage done plus retailers’ expenditure on preventive measures.
The survey gathers data from 44 retail groups â€“ 58% of the sector by turnover â€“ and is claimed to be its most comprehensive crime survey so far.
It found that nearly one in 20 stores was robbed during the year. The average cost of each incident tripled to £3,005, from £989 the previous year, a result of more organised offending.
Significantly, e-crime was the most costly form of retail crime, accounting for 37% of the total. Fraud accounted for 26% of the total cost of retail crime last year. All types of fraud increased, with identity fraud rising 80%.
Numbers of incidents of crime rose across all categories apart from violence against staff and robbery. Customer thefts remain the most common retail crime, accounting for 83% of all incidents, despite having the biggest fall in reporting. In 2011, 47% of customer thefts were reported; last year, it was 12%, suggesting retailers’ confidence in police responses needs to be improved.
The survey indicates there are 2m incidents of shoplifting a year in the UK retail sector as a whole, involving about £200m worth of goods. The average value of goods stolen rose by 28%, to £109.
In some areas, police forces have reported growing numbers of people stealing out of desperation and targeting essential items such as groceries rather than luxury goods.
Costs increased for all crimes with the exception of shop breakins. The survey shows retailers are spending more on efforts to protect their staff, stock and customers: £750,000 each on average, up 7%.
The survey suggests 28,700 retail workers across the whole retail sector suffered physical attacks, threats or verbal abuse during the year, although the number of incidents more than halved compared with the previous year.
The BRC’s director general, Helen Dickinson, said: “Systematic targeting of higher value goods by organised criminals is pushing up the cost of retail crime but the proportion of shoplifting incidents reported to police has plummeted to just one in eight, highlighting just how much there is to do to build retailers’ confidence in the way police forces respond.”