Retail crime in the UK is fast becoming a pressing concern for many businesses.
As the high streets and shopping districts bustle with activity, there’s an underlying issue that continues to cast a shadow over merchants and shop owners alike: the rising tide of theft and shoplifting.
It’s not just small items being pocketed surreptitiously; larger, more valuable items are also being targeted with increasing regularity.
Recognising the gravity of the situation, businesses are becoming proactive, constantly innovating and devising new strategies to deter these criminals and safeguard their assets.
Let’s explore the issue in more detail and shed light on the most targeted retail sectors and the preventative measures being adopted by many businesses across the UK.
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Dummy packaging is being praised for reducing shoplifting
In the continuous battle against retail theft, businesses have adopted a range of strategies, and one particularly ingenious method is the use of ‘dummy packaging’. At first glance, these packages look identical to the real thing; however, they contain no actual product inside.
Instead, they serve as placeholders on the shelves, while the genuine items are either kept behind the counter or in secure storage areas.
According to a recent article on Better Retailing, Spar and Co-op branches in the UK are extending their anti-theft measures to include dummy packaging in their stores. The Co-op has said that they are starting to use this empty packaging on their higher-value products in order to prevent shoplifting.
The design of dummy packaging makes it less straightforward for thieves to simply grab and go. A potential shoplifter, thinking they’ve snagged a valuable item, might soon discover they’ve only taken an empty box, rendering their efforts fruitless.
Which retail sectors are targeted the most?
While retail crime is an issue that spans various sectors, some are disproportionately affected more than others. The top three sectors that consistently find themselves in the crosshairs of shoplifters are supermarkets, department stores, and convenience stores.
Supermarkets are the biggest targets for shoplifters as the sheer size of these shops holds much opportunity for thieves. Both their size and customer volume can make surveillance challenging, allowing thieves to exploit blind spots or busy periods.
With their vast selection of high-end clothing, electronics, cosmetics, and more, department stores are the second-highest retail sector for shoplifters looking for valuable items to steal. The diverse range of products and often multi-level layouts can complicate monitoring efforts.
Despite their smaller size, convenience stores are frequently targeted due to their extended operating hours and quick in-and-out nature. They often house desirable items like tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets, which can be easily snatched during peak times or late hours when few members of staff are present.
Co-op now using undercover security guards & more ways to deter thieves
As well as highlighting that convenience stores were the third highest retail sector for shoplifting crimes, Talking Retail also highlighted that the Co-op is taking more measures as they are targeted the most.
Data shows that the Co-op is the top convenience store retailer that has the most shoplifting, hence why some branches have even started to use undercover security guards in-store.
As well as this, there are many other ways in which retail businesses in the UK are implementing new methods to deter thieves in their stores.
As well as visible staff presence on the shop floor, businesses are looking towards using mirrors and CCTV to eliminate blind spots in stores and also installing more signs about the presence of CCTV.
Additionally, restricting access to high-value items also now seems commonplace in many stores, with the use of dummy packaging, security tags, or locked-up products on more expensive products.
Fuel stations: a rising hotspot for theft
Within the top ten retail sectors which are affected by shoplifting, it turns out that thieves are also shoplifting from fuel stations, pharmacies, and even charity shops.
Fuel stations, while essential to the daily functioning of our transport-reliant society, are witnessing a spike in theft incidents. It’s not just the items inside the convenience store attached to these fuel stations that are at risk; the fuel itself has become a prime target.
Shoplifting from these stations often mirrors patterns seen in other retail sectors. However, what’s uniquely concerning for fuel stations is the audacity with which some individuals are committing fuel theft.
‘Drive-offs’ are becoming increasingly common where motorists fill up their vehicles and brazenly leave the forecourt without paying. Due to rising fuel costs, recent reports have shown that the number of drivers who are driving off without paying when refuelling at fuel stations has risen by around 79% in recent years.
In addition to this, fuel theft has also become linked to organised crime on a much larger scale. As the rates of fuel theft have risen, so too have sophisticated fuel thefts which steal tanks of fuel instead of just smaller quantities, not just from fuel forecourts.
At the end of August this year, over 20,000 litres of fuel were stolen from Derwent Valley Industrial Estate in York. This recent high-value fuel theft took place with two HGVs in the early hours of the morning.
As the cost of fuel continues to fluctuate and economic challenges persist, some see fuel theft as a desperate measure, while for others, it’s a calculated risk. Regardless of the motive, the increasing boldness of these thefts underscores the need for enhanced security measures and vigilant monitoring at fuel stations and other fuel store sites across the UK.
The future of retail security in the UK
The landscape of retail crime in the UK is evolving, marked by a worrying trend of increasingly audacious thefts. From supermarkets and department stores to convenience outlets and fuel stations, no sector seems immune to the rising tide of criminal activity.
As thieves become bolder, undeterred by conventional security measures, the challenge for businesses is to stay one step ahead, innovating and adapting to safeguard their assets.