The Complete Guide To Retail Crime Statistics

Retail is arguably one of the most important sectors across the UK. It’s the beating heart of the British high street, and an integral part of many lives – as shoppers, as investors, as workers, and as people, we’ve all relied upon the retail industry at many times in our lives.

It’s unfortunate, then, that those working in the sector face such an uphill struggle when it comes to the crime they experience. As one of the worst hit sectors, many of the statistics make for grim reading for those who own businesses, or that are planning to venture into the sector.

As one of the UK’s leading providers of security services, we fully understand the need to be aware and prepared for the ugly truths of operating a retail business. That’s why we’ve broken down the key statistics you’ll need to be aware of, and what you can do to mitigate those inherent risks of working in retail.


Retail Crime At A Glance

It’s important to begin with an overall look at the state of crime across the retail sector, not least because it’s one of the most diverse and multi-faceted sectors. From boutiques to departments store, and corner shops to supermarkets, the spectrum of retail spans a significant number of businesses.

Sadly though, it’s this diversity that means retail is subject to a range of threats that are either non-existent or minimal across other sectors. Shoplifting and theft are huge culprits for what’s ultimately a high crime rate, but violence and abuse is an all-too-common occurrence, as well as criminal damage and even arson.

Cyber crime is an emerging threat, too, and further underscores the evolving nature of crime in retail. This usually consists of malicious attacks on your online services, and it can seriously tarnish your reputation, as well as impact your financials significantly.

While you might expect these risks to only apply to larger-scale enterprises, it’s unfortunately just as likely to happen to smaller firms too. The Federation of Small Businesses estimate that around 50% of all small businesses will be victims of crime at some point in their operation.

Of course, it’s startling statistics like these that prompt a necessary investment in retail security services, but they’re also a key factor to consider when writing up any business plan or investor pitches.

Let’s highlight a few of the key statistics from recent reports on crime in the retail sector, and what they might mean for your business going forward.


7 Key Statistics On Retail Crime

While many reports on crime in the industry make for an uncomfortable read, it’s the findings and statistics that really form the crux of the information you need to be aware of.

We’ve highlighted just a few of these to help you make a decision on your retail business security, and to better prepare you for what you could face as a budding entrepreneur in the sector.

1. Over 8 Million Incidents Of Theft In The Last Year

One of the key publications from the British Retail Consortium, the foremost trade association for both small and large businesses across the UK, reported that there were over 8 million incidents of customer theft and shoplifting over the last year.

Theft is one of the key threats that any retailer faces, but it’s stats like these that really draw attention to the magnitude of the issue, and how much continued focus on retail security is needed to ensure that we work on lowering these soaring numbers.


2. The Average Cost Of Theft From Small Stores Is £1,066

While we might assume that the majority of theft or shoplifting is on a smaller scale, statistics like this one from the Association of Convenience Stores serve to highlight just how much this can impact smaller businesses.

The report from the ACS is alarming in what it finds, and this is a prime example of that. A loss of this size, especially for smaller businesses in a struggling economy, can have drastic consequences, which further underlines the need for continued investment in retail security.


3. Alcohol is NOT the most stolen item

More of an addressal of a misconception than an outright statistic, this is one that many readers may find quite surprising. While we often assume that alcohol is the main target for opportunistic thieves and shoplifters, it’s actually confectionary that takes the number one spot for theft.

The recent report from the ACS discovered that, while booze is still an obvious target, it’s sweets and chocolate that contributes the most towards the levels of theft we’ve seen across the sector, with meat products also making up a significant portion of those losses.


4. 25% Of Independent Retailers Experienced Violence In The Last Year

While it’s certainly the most commonplace crime across the sector, theft is sadly not the only risk that retailers face. This particular stat from the ACS serves to highlight just how at-risk our independent and boutique shops are, especially from violent attacks.

The causes for this are numerous, but the more common ones include refusal of service (usually due to intoxication or aggressive behaviour), or enforcing an age-restriction policy (such as those on alcohol or medicines).

Over the last year, the ACS estimated there were over 35,000 incidents of violence across the retail sector, which further spotlights the pressing need for effective and robust security solutions for retail businesses.


5. Over 800,000 Incidents Of Verbal Abuse Last Year

Physical violence is, of course, a concern, but violent behaviour in the retail sector doesn’t end with that. The ACS found that there were over 800,000 reports of verbal abuse towards staff and business owners in the retail sector.

The root causes are huge in numbers, but of particular concern is the amount of incidents that were hateful or discriminatory. From that same ACS report, an estimated 25% of all verbal abuse was motivated by hate, including racist, misogynistic and homophobic abuse.


6. The Estimated Total Cost Of Retail Theft Is £1.04 Billion

An eye-watering amount by any standards, this particularly distressing statistic was uncovered in the latest report from the British Retail Consortium. While this covers the full gamut of retail businesses, from huge chain supermarkets to independently-run corner shops, it does show just how much of a problem theft is for the retail industry.

A staggering £953 million of that £1.04 billion is made up by customer theft, with the remaining losses made up by staff and corporate theft.


7. The Total Cost Of Crime Has Increased By 32% Since 2021

While this isn’t a good note to close out our statistics on, it’s arguably one of the most important points to take away. An astronomic rise of 32% has meant that losses (through theft and other crime) have gone from £786 million to over £1 billion, according to data from the BRC.

A sharp decline during the pandemic has meant that we’re continuing to see an alarming upward trend in terms of the costs of crime, which further reinforces the ongoing need for effective retail security.


What These Statistics Mean For Retailers Going Forward

Naturally, these statistics can be unnerving for retailers, especially those who are just beginning their journey. However, while they are undoubtedly a cause for concern, they also help us reflect on what can be done for the future.

Outside of efficient and effective retail security, which we’ll discuss more in-depth shortly, there’s also been numerous developments across the wider law surrounding theft and sentencing that show moves in a positive direction for retailers.

Here’s just a few key points that pave the way for a better and brighter future for those in the retail sector:

  • Tougher Penalties For Retail Criminals – Recent changes to governmental policy means that aggravated or violent behaviour towards those in retail or serving positions is considered differently to those not in that position, and can carry stricter sentences.
  • Increased Police Crime Commissioner Focus – Each region has its own PCC, and in recent years, there’s been a lack of focus on the retail sector. That’s changed since the pandemic, and we’re now seeing a much greater emphasis on the safety and security of our retailers, with 37 of 42 PCCs committing to tackling retail crime.
  • Greater Governmental Policing – A recent statement from the government’s policing minister Chris Philip drew attention to the plight of the retail sector, and emphasised the Government’s commitment to addressing the epidemic of theft and shoplifting across the sector.

Of course, all of these factors point towards a more sustainable and safer future for the retail sector, but it’s only with cooperation and support that we can make a huge difference to the crime statistics we’ve seen in this report.

Let’s look at how you can better protect your individual interests, and look after the security and safety of your retail business.


How You Can Protect Your Retail Business From Crime

As welcome as the changes to the law and policing are, they’re only as effective as your retail security systems are. That’s something that we hugely understand here at Churchill Support Services, which is why we’ve outlined the key considerations for security in the retail sector.

Retail Security Guards Are A Necessity

In our extensive history in the security industry, we’ve seen countless times just how effective a deterrent that visible, well-trained security guards are. They’re the first line of defence for many security packages across the retail sector, and bring with them a massive array of benefits.

Not only are our guards expertly trained in both conflict de-escalation, but they’re also well-versed in recognising and preventing crime before it can ever happen, looking out for suspicious behaviour or movements that can be the early warning signs of theft or violent behaviour.

Retail security guards are also able to utilise any CCTV cameras you have on site to provide a birds-eye view of the store, and keep watch for anything that could jeopardise the safety and security of your business.

Robust CCTV Is Essential In The Retail Sector

Another of the stalwart presences in the security industry, retail CCTV has been a must-have for many years, and technological advancements have only cemented this high-tech solution’s place in the arsenal of any conscientious retailer.

It functions as both a highly effective deterrent (particularly in conjunction with retail security guards), and as a superb monitoring tool for the more at-risk or high traffic areas of your store. They’re a mainstay in many shops up and down the country, and for good reason.

Not only do retail CCTV cameras help to mitigate the risks of crime, they’re also a brilliant tool in aiding the emergency services if the worst does happen, meaning the perpetrators can be brought to justice, and you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Retail Store Detectives Are Your Secret Security Measure

Specially trained to blend with crowds and conduct covert surveillance of your shopfloor, our masterfully trained retail store detectives are able to monitor your shop from on the ground, keeping an eye on any suspicious activity, and watching for the first signs of disturbance.

They’re able to follow your directives, and offer a unique perspective of the busier areas of your story, especially in times where theft might be more likely to occur (such as on a busy Saturday or Sunday).

While they’re undercover and don’t offer the same deterrence as CCTV or security guards, they’re often considered to be the ace up the sleeve of retailers in the fight against crime.

Consider Retail Key Holding For Ultimate Security

While many shops have moved with the times and now have Sunday operating hours, there’s still likely to be times throughout the year when your premises aren’t occupied. Effective retail CCTV and security guarding can be employed year-round, but for an additional layer of protection, key holding is an absolute must.

This means that a spare copy of your shop’s keys will be held in a secure, restricted access facility off-site, and made available to you whenever they’re needed. This not only provides you with peace of mind, but it can mean you’ve always got the access you need to your business, even if you’re not in the country.

John Melling

Group Chief Executive Officer

John has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.