UK retailers call for action against rising crime in letter to home secretary

Around 88 UK retail decision makers have called on the government to tackle the rising rates of retail crime in an open letter to home secretary Suella Braverman.

Signatories, including chief executive of Aldi Giles Hurley and chief executive of Kingfisher Thierry Garnier, demanded that the government makes assaulting or abusing a retail worker a standalone offence.

The retailers argue that the move would act as a deterrent to criminals, require the police to record all incidents of retail crime, and allow better allocation of resources to the issue.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that police data shows that for one major retailer, they failed to respond to 73 per cent of serious retail crimes that were reported to them. In the BRC’s latest annual crime survey, 44 per cent of retailers rated police response to retail crime as poor or very poor.

The survey also showed that there were around 850 incidents of violence and abuse against retail workers every day in the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

In the letter, retailers said they had lost around £953 million to shoplifting and invested around £715 million on crime prevention measures.

Chief executive of the BRC Helen Dickinson called on the government to “put their words in to action” and agreed with retailers that a standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker is necessary.

“It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse,” she said. “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.”

A number of British retailers have already recently raised concerns about increased crime levels and introduced measures to try and prevent it.

Earlier this year, John Lewis chair Sharon White said UK legislation “could do more” to mitigate a surge in shoplifting cases throughout the country.

Elsewhere, Tesco and Aldi have trialled the use of body cameras in an attempt to prevent crime and abuse towards staff.

The Co-op has also introduced dummy packaging to deter shoplifting after reporting losses of £33 million, some of which was the result of retail crime.

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