Tackling a rising tide of retail crime

The true extent of an alarming number of cases in retail theft and violence has been laid bare by new research from NFU Mutual showing that nearly three-quarters of retailers surveyed have suffered from crime over the past 12 months.

Among the 74% of retailers reporting as having suffered from crime over the last year, the average financial cost was almost £60,000 per year. Shockingly, 1 in 20 retailers surveyed reported losing half a million pounds or more to crime over that period.

But of course the harm caused by retail crime goes way beyond the monetary loss. Our research found more than a third of retailers saying it’s impacted their mental health, and almost as many admitting they live in fear of theft or violence on their store. As Tom Ironside, Director of Business & Regulation at the British Retail Consortium puts it: “Violence and abuse take a huge toll on retail workers, their families, and their friends. While incidents might be over in a few minutes, victims can carry these experiences with them for a lifetime – and can have a severe impact on victims physical and mental health. Everyone has a right to go to work without fearing for their safety, and we must stamp out this scourge in retail crime once and for all for the sake of all the hardworking people in retail.”

So it’s no surprise that almost two-thirds of retailers who responded say they have taken additional security measures to protect staff in the last year alone. Alongside the familiar CCTV cameras, businesses have resorted to full-time security cover, staff training on safety and self-defence, and panic alarms for staff and counters. 24% have issued staff with bodycams.

All these figures confirm the growing volume of reports we read in the news and hear directly from our own retail clients. Together they point to a sharp increase in the volume and severity of crime which plagues our shops.

At NFU Mutual Central-South Warwickshire & Pershore agency we support retail businesses of all sizes, from independent florists and butchers to garden centres and multi-store grocers. We work in partnership to help them safeguard property and stock, ensure staff safety, and combat specialist threats such as cybercrime (where, increasingly, retailers are being advised to hire data protection specialists to provide ongoing security for data, as well as making sure they have cybercrime insurance in place). Of course no business can ever be made entirely crime proof, but we work with our clients to help them do whatever they can to deter criminals, and then to make sure that their insurance cover is structured to support them as well as possible and keep businesses running smoothly should the worst happen.

To support our retail customers, NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited provide the following advice to protect against shoplifting: 

  1. Use customer service as a tool to deter thieves – greeting them lets them know they have been acknowledged and may deter them as they have been identified.
  2. Make sure store layouts are organised and tidy, placing high-value or items which are more desirable for thieves in monitorable areas. Consider adding mirrors to the store to reduce blind spots.
  3. If possible, limit the number of high value items on display and secure remaining stock within a robust, lockable area.
  4. Train staff to recognise shoplifting tactics and ensure they know how to keep themselves safe from the risk of violence.
  5. Consider displaying signage in-store notifying thieves that they will be prosecuted.
  6. Try to minimise cash takings and use counter caches to deposit cash during opening hours. Install a good quality compliant safe which is fixed in place and preferably kept in an alarm protected area.

And the following advice is provided for retailers looking to protect against break-ins:

  1. Ensure all doors and windows have good quality locks (to BS3621) which cannot be opened from the outside or from the inside without the use of a key.
  2. Always keep keys to doors, windows, and safes, in a secure location. Always remove them from your premises outside of business hours and limit their distribution amongst managers or staff. 
  3. Consider investing in good shutters, grilles and bars on doors and windows.
  4. If investing in an intruder alarm, ensure it is installed by a NSI or SSAIB approved company, compliant to EN1350-1 and provides remote signalling to an alarm receiving centre.
  5. If investing in surveillance (CCTV) ensure it provides good quality images, is recorded to the cloud with links to mobiles and/or remote monitoring, and meets requirements of GDPR.
  6. Have a robust policy in place for responding to intruder alarm activations - i.e. don't let a keyholder turn up on their own.

You can visit our Insurance for Retailers page to find out more about NFU Mutual’s services. If you would like to discuss your current or future insurance requirements in complete confidence please contact us.