The latest BRC Retail Crime Survey shows that spending on prevention and losses from crime cost the retail sector £1.9bn in 2018.

The survey, published today, was drawn from retail respondents who collectively control 11,000 stores and £103bn in turnover across the UK. 

It found that instances of retailers incurring theft or damages in the UK grew 40% overall last year, largely driven by customer theft, which accounted for 98% of all overall incidents of this nature.

‘Customer theft’ – shoplifting of items from stores – increased individually by 33%, while incidents of more serious crime also saw large increases. Robberies increased by 508%, burglaries increased by 137%, employee theft increased by 129% and damage to shop fronts and stores increased by 105%.

In terms of overall cost to the retail sector, the BRC estimates total spending and losses from crime to the industry was £1.9bn in 2018, a 12% increase year on year and equivalent to approximately 20% of the sector’s total profits. This was broken down into £1bn being spent on “efforts to prevent crime” and £900m in direct costs.

The BRC also said the survey found an increasing trend towards retail staff experiencing targeted verbal abuse and violent crimes. The BRC recorded over 42,000 incidents of violent crime towards retail employees last year, which equates to 115 retail staff members being attacked every day. 

Survey respondents reported “increasing willingness” among offenders to use weapons to intimidate or even attack staff “even for relatively small amounts” of money.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Violence against employees remains one of the most pressing issues retailers face, yet once again we have seen an increase in the overall number of incidents. Such crimes harm not just hardworking employees, but also their families and communities.

“The spiralling cost of retail crime – both in losses and the cost of prevention – are a huge burden to a retail sector that is already weighed down by the twin challenges of skyrocketing business costs and Brexit uncertainty.”

The survey also found retailers have a generally low opinion of the way the police respond to crimes in shops. Accounting for instances of violence and abuse, as well as those of theft and damage, 70% of retail respondents described the police’s response as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

Only 20% of respondents overall said the police did a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job of responding to retail crimes, though these figures did increase slightly when more serious crimes were being reported.

The BRC has called on police and crime commissioners to “make explicit reference to retail crime in their Police and Crime Plans” and are in consultation with the Home Office on a call for evidence focusing on retail crime, which it said should happen before Parliament’s summer recess.