While the current trend is for general crime rates continuing to fall, shoplifting is on the rise. According to Home Office figures, the number of shoplifting offences in 2013-2014 has risen by 6.7% when compared to the previous year.
The Christmas period usually sees very little crime in most business sectors, but there’s one great exception: the retail industry. Since the recession in 2008, the holiday ‘free-for-all’ has become considerably worse with the increased footfall during the festive season something of a double-edged sword for UK retailers.
True, an influx of customers does cause sales to skyrocket, but it also leads to overcrowded shop floors, in turn providing the perfect cover for shoplifters.
Shoplifting is often considered a victimless crime. However, research shows this isn’t the case. The economic effects of shoplifting during the Christmas period are massive, with thieves stealing an average of £37.04 from every family.
In addition to these costs, for the staff working in shops and stores who are threatened with or subject to physical violence when confronted by thieves, this can have dire psychological effects.
The majority of retailers will encounter some form of security threat over Christmas, but it’s the large department stores that are targeted the most. This is due to them stocking those products most commonly found on the thieves’ wish lists. Items such as tablets, game consoles, perfume, women’s clothing and jewellery are most popular.
This doesn’t mean smaller shops shouldn’t watch out, though, as the thieves often approach smaller and more vulnerable retailers because they stock alcohol, Christmas decorations and, in some cases, high value food items, etc.
Being aware of the issues
John Roddy, CEO at The Shield Group, said: “Dramatic increases in shopper numbers creates the potential for serious problems. There are also some consumers who derive a thrill out of stealing. They typically pocket a ‘free’ gift during an otherwise legitimate shopping trip. However, traditional criminals also get in on the act as shops become so packed that it’s much harder for security teams to be aware of the issues. Add to this mix a thriving black market and the lure of swift financial gain is potentially all it takes to motivate the criminally inclined.”
Threats to retailers are not just external. During this time of year figures consistently show an increase in employee theft. This type of theft alone cost the UK economy over £300 million in 2013.
Temporary staff are often employed over the Christmas period, of course, and research recently conducted by First Advantaged shows that significantly more inaccuracies can be found in the CVs of seasonal workers when compared to those of their permanent staff colleagues.
Nearly 50% of education verification tests carried out on seasonal workers uncover discrepancies, while a third of employment history verifications turn up inaccuracies and discrepancies of some form.
According to Roddy, the solution to this issue lies with the retail owners themselves.
“Security should be every shop owner’s number one priority,” asserted Roddy, “not only to ensure that nothing is stolen, but also to guarantee the safety of both customers and staff alike.”
In conclusion, Roddy added: “By implementing appropriate security measures and reviewing the temporary staff that are being employed, there ought to be no reason why crime should be allowed to ruin the Christmas holidays.”