Rising inflation and strains on budgets have furthered the wave of shoplifting in retail shops across the UK in the past few months, including Tesco, which has taken additional steps to try to protect food items from being stolen.
The retailer has gone so far as to wrap some higher-priced products in netting with security tags to deter would-be criminals from and increased the number of personnel dedicated to stopping the practise.
Tesco Chairman John Allan told Times Radio: “I think shoplifting is a concern and getting the police to take action and respond to cases where we and other retailers – and this is a concern right across the retail trade – is an issue. I don’t sympathise with people who shoplift, but I can understand desperate people taking desperate measures sometimes when they’ve literally got no money left.”
Inflation numbers have soared to 9.4% and could surpass 13% in the next month, putting many struggling individuals in position to steal to survive. Back in July, the Daily Mail reported that some markets were willing to work with thieves to get them further assistance rather than try to confront them and force a scene.
But frustrated with the amount of losses being incurred as well as potentially dangerous situations for workers in store trying to prevent shoplifting, more than 100 leaders at retailers penned a letter to Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. They noted the fact that during the first year of the pandemic, in-store crimes had tripled from 455 to 1,300.
“Throughout the pandemic, people in retail worked tirelessly to ensure we had access to the food and goods we needed and wanted,” they wrote. “Alongside NHS and care workers, they were rightly applauded by the government and the public for their hard work. During this time, they were met with an unacceptable level of abuse and violence – each incident taking an emotional toll on them, their families, and their colleagues.”
The cost of protection colleagues from harm and on the efforts to mitigate stealing in stores totaled £715 million in 2020-21 alone, as they were forced to increase trainings for de-escalation, increase personnel and spend on new technologies such as CCTV and body cameras.
“Ultimately, theft pushes up the cost of operating and results in higher prices for everyone. It’s not just the financial cost of theft which is important; customers as well as store, delivery and customer service teams can be left traumatised by such incidents,” they wrote
In that letter to PCCs, the group of leaders that included Giles Hurley, CEO of Aldi; Ryan McDonnell, CEO, Lidl GB; Pippa Wicks, Executive Director, John Lewis & Partners; and Stuart Machin, Chief Executive Officer, Marks & Spencer; called on them to:
- “Commit to making retail crime a priority in your local policing plan;
- Work with local businesses to investigate ways to make reporting simpler, to help give the police an accurate picture of the problem;
- Push your local force to investigate all reports of violence and abuse against retail workers, ensuring the matter is treated with the seriousness it deserves;
- Monitor how often the new sentencing guidelines are used in your local area and what effect it has on bringing down violence and abuse against retail workers.”