Around 90 retail leaders in the UK have signed a letter to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, demanding a crackdown on retail crime.


Retail theft accounted for £953m in 2021/22

The rate of retail crime is on the up, with the 2023 British Retail Consortium (BRC) Crime Survey revealing that incidents of violence and abuse towards staff almost doubled on pre-pandemic levels to 867 incidents every day in 2021/22.

Retailers have spent more than £700m on crime prevention, but the scale of retail theft stood at £953m. The total cost of retail crime came to £1.76bn for the 12-month period to April.

A separate BRC survey of members in 2023 showed that levels of shoplifting across 10 major cities increased by an average of 27%.

Retailers including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have recently agreed to fund a new police operation to help tackle crime in stores, while the Co-op said it has seen “record levels” of crime to nearly 1,000 incidents per day.

The retail industry is asking the government to create a standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker, including tougher sentences for offenders, and it wants UK police forces to make retail crime a higher priority.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse. 

“We are seeing organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores. We are seeing violence against colleagues who are doing their job and asking for age verification. 

“We are seeing a torrent of abuse aimed at hardworking shop staff. It’s simply unacceptable – no one should have to go to work fearing for their safety.

“It’s time the government put their words into action. We need to see a standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker – as exists in Scotland. 

“We need the government to stand with the millions of retail workers who kept us safe and fed during the pandemic – and support them, as those workers supported us.”