The Shield Group advises UK retailers as retail crime increases

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has announced that the direct cost of crime to retailers last year rose to £511 million – 166% higher than in 2007-2008.

A leading expert from The Shield Group, the UK’s ninth largest business security company, has looked at today’s figures and offers retailers advice on how to best protect themselves in 2014.

Paul Bland, divisional director-retail of The Shield Group, is hoping his advice can help retailers better prepare during a time of increased incidents of theft and fraud.

Last year, retailers suffered the highest level of theft for nine years. Thefts by customers rose to their highest level for nine years, with the average value of items stolen going up by 62% to £177.

High value items being targeted include electrical goods, designer clothing, handbags and power tools.

With the well-publicised struggles of the British High Street of late, the added crippling cost of theft could force many retailers to shut their High Street branches, with small-to-medium sized business affected the most.

According to the BRC’s annual Retail Crime Survey, retailers suffered 2.7 million offences in the year 2012-2013. While burglary, robbery and staff theft all take their toll by pushing up retail costs, shoplifting and the rise of supply chain fraud are having by far the biggest impact.

Paul Bland: divisional director of retail at The Shield Group

Paul Bland: divisional director of retail at The Shield Group

Last year, theft values by customers reached their highest level in almost a decade, meaning this type of criminality now accounts for more than 80% of all retail crime. Supply chain fraud increased by 15% from the previous year as organised criminal gangs have become more sophisticated in their approach.

Retail criminality has evolved

In recent years, retail crime has evolved and surpasses the rather more obvious shoplifting to more complex crimes like cyber fraud, organised robbery and employee theft, in turn affecting larger and smaller businesses alike.

As a result, both independent and small retailers are turning in ever-greater numbers to private security companies for security solutions. Sector-trained security and loss prevention officers are well placed to stifle criminal activities on the shop floor and implement rigorous crime and loss prevention measures to discourage theft, reduce shrink while promoting a safer, more profitable shopping environment.

The Shield Group believes that the implementation of intelligence-led security solutions across retail communities has played a vital role in preventing imminent and potential criminal threats. As retail crime evolves, it’s more necessary than ever to use these measures to anticipate and pre-empt crime by sourcing, analysing and exploiting timely intelligence.

Effective governance is being built through proactive criminal investigations, the development of Best Practice techniques with retailers and the transmission of evidence to the authorities.

Alcohol is a target for many thieves

Alcohol is a target for many thieves

A cost-effective method for small retailers to increase their security success rate is active co-operation between each other, as well as with private security firms, community groups and the police. The volume of information now shared results in a ‘constant chatter’ between these entities, discussing subject matter such as movements of known shoplifters, real-time notification of thefts and new theft techniques, as well prominent prosecutions.

This intelligence-fed security approach equips retailers with the information required to adapt to changing theft techniques and implement strategies that best protect their brands for the future.

Focus of product security

Product security is no longer focused solely on the shop floor. Digital marking and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking now plays a key role in protecting the whole supply chain from warehouse to customer.

Frontline security officers have contributed to a 50% fall in robbery and violence against staff and customers. This gives retailers confidence that security officers are able to step in at the critical moment to diffuse tensions and respond quickly to situations before the local police arrive, acting as a vital deterrent to criminals.

Technological advances are also helping many small retailers react to crime while it’s being committed. Improvements in Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems, in-store and local CCTV and other technological advances are discouraging criminals and helping managers better allocate human resources.

New methods for preventing theft

Paul Bland, the divisional director for retail at The Shield Group, commented: “We have found retailers are spending more on private security measures now than they have in the past as they need to think of new ways to protect themselves from theft which last year cost UK retailers over £511 million in losses. The implementation of intelligence-led security solutions across retail communities will play a vital role in preventing imminent and potential criminal threats. As retail crime evolves, we believe it is more necessary than ever to use these measures to anticipate and pre-empt crime by sourcing, analysing and exploiting timely intelligence.”

Bland went on to state: “The Shield Group is seeing a large increase in active co-operation between individual retailers, private security firms, community groups and the police. The volume of information now shared results in a ‘constant chatter’ between these entities, discussing subject matter such as movements of known shoplifters, real-time notification of thefts and new theft techniques, as well prominent prosecutions.”

In conclusion, Bland commented: “Technological advances are helping many retailers react to crime while it is being committed. Alarms, in-store and local CCTV and other technological advances are discouraging criminals and helping security managers better allocate human resources. Private security companies such as The Shield Group are now offering a Total Security Solutions (TSS) model, allowing them to focus solely on securing their clients’ premises, employees and customers. This innovative model has proven a success with many retailers across the nation, leaving them to concentrate on serving their customers better.”

Top security tips for SMB retailers

(1) Carry out a crime and loss prevention risk assessment

(2) If outsourcing security, ensure the company chosen is able to demonstrate sector expertise and provide the sort of protection and services required

(3 Make sure that crime prevention systems are up-to-date and working well with regular reviews and checks

(4) Senior management must demonstrate a commitment to driving loss prevention culture engagement from all staff

(5) Ensure store management attend local crime prevention group meetings and that intelligence obtained from the authorities is communicated to staff at all levels

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