The impact of retail crime

The impact of retail crime and strategies to prevent It

In their recent report, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) stated that the cost of retail crime prevention in 2020/21 was a staggering £715million and are urging Police and Crime commissioners in England and Wales to prioritise retail crime. This statistic shines a light on the astonishing impact retail crime has on businesses and how much resource is going into preventing and managing these incidents. 

Prevention and management has accelerated way beyond in house measures and external security companies such as Zinc are being called in to more and more retail businesses each year to help manage these incidents using innovative software and expertise. 

Types of retail crime

There are various different types of retail crime. The obvious being physical crimes such as burglary, shoplifting, cash scams, threat against staff or vandalism where an incident has taken place within the store either during opening hours or once the store has closed. There is also digital crime which can involve hacking of data that can jeopardise GDPR or online fraud where customers’ billing details or even the companies financial assets become at risk.

These crimes can be carried out by individuals or in worse cases, Organised Retail Crime (ORC), groups or gangs of criminals working together to target retail businesses. The latter can be much harder to get ahold of as careful planning by experienced criminals goes into the operation of these crimes. In 2019, it was reported by the Centre For Retail Research that an estimated 28.2% of losses from external retail crime was caused by ORC.

Whether a business will be victim to more physical or digital retail crime completely depends on the type of business they are and the efforts they are putting into their security and prevention strategy. Smaller local retail businesses such as convenience stores tend to have less digital assets but will often be victim to petty theft and abuse. Larger retailers such as supermarkets and household names have more stores, more staff to look after and more data to protect so they may be seen as a bigger establishment to bring down with more assets.

The types of retail crimes that have the biggest impact on businesses can vary, however, 1301 violent or abusive incidents are reported everyday in retail stores across the UK (BRC) and this number sadly increases year on year. It is believed that this figure is significantly higher due to under reporting. This is becoming a growing concern for retailers and retail risk and security strategists such as ourselves due to the impact that compromised safety can have on staff’s wellbeing as well as how customers feel coming into a store. 

What types of stores are most affected?

All stores are impacted by retail crime in different ways. Larger stores can be vulnerable to crimes such as theft, taking place at various exits around the building. Larger buildings and increased customer footfall can mean shoplifting is harder to control.

Smaller stores may see more burglary, the breaking and entering of a store with the intent to commit a crime. This is more common in smaller shops and local stores due to the criminal believing there is likely to be less security in place. 

This does all depend on the operations of each retailer which dictates the opportunities criminals seek to exploit. Developing an effective security strategy helps all parties understand the impact on a micro level. Knowing when, where, how and by whom a crime is committed assists us in putting the appropriate mitigation in place.

The impact on businesses 

Retail crime can affect multiple areas of a business. Before any crime has taken place, time, money and resources are being solely put into prevention and minimising the impact when it does happen. Retailers conscious of increases in crimes need to spend prudently on security measures, to ensure they implement the right processes into the most impacted areas of their operation. This requires a risk and intelligence led approach, which many retailers are choosing to invest in.

Following a crime, there is cost involved whether that be via loss of stock, damage to the property, staff having to take time off or a data breach to rectify. This can also affect insurance if a claim needs to be made as payment going forward will increase as a result. 

Reputation of a business can be significantly affected by retail crime and is a huge concern. While stock loss through theft is important, the overall effect on brand is paramount; retailers want to promote their locations as being a safe place to work and shop. 

Staff wellbeing is also at the forefront of many retailers when choosing the level of security they want to invest in. Retailers encourage their colleagues to report all forms of violence and abuse they may sadly encounter, so that it can be better understood and proactively tackled.

Retail crime prevention 

Although police response to retail crime is improving, there are still only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse that ended in prosecution. The staggering increase in violence alongside a 50% increase in cyber attacks is incredibly alarming to retailers. A positive is that a new law was introduced earlier this year to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which created tougher sentencing for assaults committed against those “providing a public service or performing a public duty” (BRC). This will hopefully mean we see a reduction in the amount of violent crimes against retail workers but will only be effective if police successfully investigate and prosecute these incidents.

It has become abundantly clear that retailers cannot lean fully on police support to respond to retail crime; rather that they work in close partnership with police in the most severe of circumstances – particularly violence or organised criminality features. Otherwise, it is a more sensible approach to prevent crime from occuring before it happens – to do that, retailers must first understand what their crime and security risks are, and in granular detail. 

Zinc’s intuitive incident case and crime reporting platform, Synapse, helps retailers stay one step ahead by providing analytical insight into their crime and security incident data. By gaining this valuable insight, retailers can put preventive security measures, whether guarding or systems, at the most optimum points where risk is highest. Synapse allows retailers to drill right down to understanding risks to areas of their locations, and view other aspects such as when organised crime groups target specific stores and how – answer the important “How, What, When, Where and Why” questions..Zinc Systems is a member of Secured by Design, which means it is recognised that Synapse supports crime reduction as described here. We work with retail businesses all across the world to help drive down the astonishing levels of retail crime taking place. We can help you create a safer environment for your staff, provide improved insight and awareness, tackle retail shrinkage through theft losses and so much more.

If you are looking for a solution to better monitor retail crime activity and protect your staff, get in touch.

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