The latest figures on UK retail crime have just come out from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and they make pretty grim reading. With a direct cost to the industry of £613m for 2014-15, retail crime costs are at their highest levels since records began. There is arguably some positive news in that the number of reported offences of customer theft has fallen.  But that’s offset by the fact that the average value of goods stolen shot up and now stands at £325 per incident. And overall customer theft still accounts for over 80% of the total number of incidents. There’s a growing trend for criminal gangs to target luxury items and hi-tech gadgets, often to order.  And criminals are becoming increasingly professional in their approach, frequently using specialist equipment like foil lined bags to avoid being detected. The bigger picture is that there’s been a worrying upwards trend in crime over the past decade. It’s now more than three times higher than the direct cost of retail crime in 2007-08. It’s clear that retailers are facing an increasingly sophisticated criminal. And as well as protecting stock, they also need to find effective ways to protect their customers and employees; the statistics reveal there’s been an increase in offences involving abuse or violence against shop staff too. What can you do to protect your business from retail crime
  • Invest in a CCTV system
There are many technological advances available to help even the smallest retailers reduce their chances of becoming a target and one of those is CCTV. It’s become increasingly affordable and it’s a powerful deterrent. Use it in combination with signage to warn would-be shoplifters that CCTV cameras are installed, their actions will be recorded and they’ll be prosecuted.
  • Install and maintain an intruder alarm
With burglaries also on the increase, no business can afford to leave their premises unprotected outside of opening hours. There are many excellent intruder alarm systems available, including ones which are monitored by an approved alarm receiving centre. They’ll alert you immediately if the alarm is activated and you can react quickly.
  • Review your layout
Consider putting high value items in full view of employees – near tills perhaps. If that’s not possible, set up CCTV cameras to point directly at the items or use locked display cabinets to reduce the chances of a criminal getting hold of them without being noticed.
  • Develop supportive relationships with other retailers
Organised gangs are a major problem for retailers. One way of tackling them is by striking up a good relationship with other retailers and working together to identify local regular offenders. You could also consider joining Retailers Against Crime, an organisation that both offers guidance about reducing retail crime and also shares information about suspects with its members and the police.
  • Be vigilant with your employees
It’s a sad fact but occasionally employees can be responsible for theft. According to the BRC statistics, employee theft made up 6% of all retail crime based on value. Start off by having good HR processes in place. Check references and employment histories. And consider whether access control could work in your premises. It would stop employees going into unauthorised areas as well as provide a record of where employees have been in case you ever needed to track movements. Finally, don’t forget the value of letting potential thieves know they’ve been seen. It’s good customer service to acknowledge people and offer help of course – but it also can help deter someone who would rather not have been noticed in the first place...