The British Retail Consortium this week published the results from its annual survey on retail crime, and it makes for very interesting reading.
Taking a sample of 52 retailers who account for 53% of the total UK retail turnover, BRC painted a picture of retailers experiencing fewer acts of criminality than in 2010, but the cost per incident rising dramatically to the overall tune of 31%. This figure doesn't even include the costs of the August riots - which, instead of causing 2011 to become a giant anomaly, are spotlighted at the end of the report, rather than being factored into it.
Increased cost per incident is one theme seen throughout the report, as it goes through the various felonies in detail. Theft was down 19% on 2010, but each theft cost retailers £85.50, an increase of 21% year-on-year; and there's a similar tale with burglaries, the number of which decreased by 42% to the lowest figure in seven years, yet the cost per incident increased by 83% to £2,093 for every offence. Additionally, employee theft is down 24%, but the value stolen each time has gone up 18%.
A clearer picture is given by the statistics for robbery, violence towards staff and criminal damage; all of which saw an increase of 20%, 83% and 63% respectively on 2010 figures. Little solace can be taken from the fact that the 83% increase in violence towards staff is mainly verbal, with the acts of actual physical violence the lowest in seven years. Abuse in the workplace is, as the BRC puts it, an 'unacceptable threat', and they encourage retailers to be more willing to report incidents across the board to help put a stop to this.
In addition, the BRC calls for further investment from retailers in crime prevention, an increased awareness of the damage caused by fraud and e-crime to retailers - seen as an 'easy opportunity' for criminals, and further co-operation between the BRC and police forces. The BRC state that a replication of the scenes of August 2011 are 'conceivable', given the deepening economic crisis, and that they can play an important role in communicating effectively with businesses during moments of unrest.
It was just such a moment in August which threw criminality against retailers into the public spotlight - and the figures outlined on the impact of said events are rather harrowing. The riots affected 20,000 employees - 1.5% of the UK's retail workforce; they cost the retailers in the survey £18.3 million in theft, criminal damage, burglary, arson and store closures. Additionally, an impact on sales was experienced by 56% of those surveyed.
One can't help but think that, were the figures from the UK riots included in the report, the figures that indicate 'below-7-year-average' figures for theft, burglary, robbery and criminal damage would not look quite so rosy. If the BRC are correct in their suggestion that a similar spate of lawlessness could hit the UK this year, retailers have to make sure that they are better safeguarded against experiencing a similar loss.
The full report is available here.