Shoplifters are cause for great losses of British stores

Britain's retail industry warned on Wednesday that store crime is on the rise, greatly increasing the cost of doing business. The British Retail Consortium said that even though shops are spending more on crime prevention, theft and other crimes including violence toward staff are still on the increase.

A report by the consortium showed that retailers spent 710 million pounds (US$1.25 billion) on security in 2004, yet lost twice the value of this investment, 1.42 billion pounds (US$2.5 billion), through crime.

The combined cost to traders was 2.13 billion pounds (US$3.7 billion), a 9 percent increase from the 1.96 billion pound cost in 2003.

Shoplifters remain the biggest headache for retailers, making off with 41.5 percent of the industry's total losses through crime. And the problem seems to be growing: reported incidences of theft are up 18 percent from 2003, and up 50 percent from 2000. Figures showed shoplifters strike most often in hardware stores.

But staff theft is almost as much of a concern, accounting for 35 percent of total losses. That problem is especially rife in electrical stores, the consortium said.

Shop workers are also increasingly likely to be the victims of crime. Cases of customers verbally abusing staff jumped 35 percent from the previous year, while physical attacks went up 14 percent, the AP reports.

Kevin Hawkins, the British Retail Consortium's director-general, said he found the growing trend of abuse against shop staff disturbing.

"Retail crime is not victimless, it leaves deep scars not only on business viability and retail staff, but also on the community with the significant costs of prevention often passed on to all threads of society," he said.

Hawkins added that many crimes went unreported, and that these figures may well be "only the tip of the iceberg."

The British Retail Consortium has launched a campaign to focus the attention of policy-makers and the criminal justice system on retail crime, particularly its impact on smaller businesses.


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