In the past year, incidents of shoplifting across the UK have shot up by a massive 25%, with leading retailers including The Co-operative reporting a loss of £33m in stock across the first six months of 2023.
Shoplifting has always been a big concern for retailers; after all, you can’t sell stock that you simply don’t have – but with a total estimated cost of £1.3 billion to the British economy every year, and with increased costs across all areas of retail, the sheer scale of the issue is becoming such it’s now very hard for shop owners to ignore or write-off.
But why have shoplifting offences risen by a quarter in a matter of just one year? There are a few potential causes to take into consideration here:
The Cost of Living Crisis:
The value of food has risen, basic clothing has become almost 10% more expensive than we’re used to paying, and the price of energy to simply keep warm at home has soared.
With this in mind – more people are turning to the theft of basic food items like cheese and meat, closely followed by clothing, just to keep themselves and their families afloat during the crisis. In previous years, more luxurious products such as jewellery, electricals and alcohol were highly targeted items, and whilst they still are – they’re not solely responsible for the 25% increase in shoplifting that 2023 has seen.
Self-Checkout Machines and Self-Scanning Guns:
With more and more retailers opting for self-checkout services in their stores, an increased number of people are seeing them as an opportunity to shoplift, with research suggesting that theft from stores with self-checkout technology is up to 52% higher than those without.
Unlike a staffed checkout, customers can skip, conceal and “forget to scan” items that they have on them, later walking out of the shop with several unpaid for goods – and in turn contributing to the 25% increase in shoplifting.
Social Media and Technology:
Years ago, many shoplifters were chancers working alone. They would walk into a shop, and if the opportunity arose (no members of staff were around, or the doors didn’t have theft-detecting barriers) they would pocket an item and leave undetected.
In more recent times, with most people owning smartphones and being active on social media, organised crime gangs are the people behind many high-value thefts. People can communicate, act as a “lookout” and plan these thefts together in a group through instant chat and social media platforms.
Not only this, platforms like TikTok are playing a negative role in the rise in shoplifting too – with people sharing tips and tricks online and turning the criminal act into a ‘community’ or risk-taking game.
So what can be done in these challenging times to help prevent shoplifting for your business?
The presence of staff is the number one deterrent to potential shoplifters entering your store, but their presence alone is sometimes not enough. That’s why it is so important to train them in knowing what to look for, the signs to spot, and emphasising vigilance – even when performing another task or serving other, genuine customers.
Shoplifters will instantly be deterred from committing a theft crime if they can see CCTV cameras. They simply do not want to get caught! And even if they’re brave enough to go ahead and do it anyway, the cameras can be used to witness and replay the crime, allowing staff to alert other nearby stores on who to look for.
A shoplifter is like a moth to a flame when it comes to a messy and disorganised shopfloor. If stock is all over the place, it makes it much easier for them to pocket items unnoticed.
Keeping smaller, pinchable items like jewellery and accessories near the front doors of a shop is a big no-no. It’s an open invite for someone to barely enter the shop in the first place before taking something and disappearing into the crowds. It’s best to have this type of item near the tills or where members of staff spend a lot of time to prevent this.
Cleverly placed mirrors are a great, low-cost way to keep an eye on suspicious customers, without the need to follow them around the store (which is never a comfortable experience for any member of staff). Strategically placing them in blind spots and corners will help with catching a thief in the act without the need for someone watching live CCTV in another room.
As well as all these preventative measures, one of the most important things you can do as a business or retailer to keep on top of shoplifting in terms of scale and stock availability, is stocktaking.
It’s a bit of a no-brainer really, so let us explain why:
How does stocktaking help in these circumstances?
- Stocktaking lets you know what you have have and what you don’t have. As a part of that, it’s going to tell you what is missing and if done regularly, where those items are being lost (it could be theft, distribution, staff error or any number of different places).
- Once you have that information you can address the issues you’re facing and start minimising losses. That in turn, of course means you can start maximising profits.
- The benefit doesn’t just stop at identifying issues and solving them either – it also lets you avoid being sold out (meaning that the demand is there for items you wouldn’t be able to sell) and it avoids you being overstocked, with items left to depreciated in your storage.
- Whilst we’re talking of storage, if you know what you need and when, you can also carry less stock, meaning you can also cut back on storage and transport costs too.
It really is a win, win, win situation…
At Abacus Valuers, we have worked with businesses to minimise the causes and consequences of shoplifting for more than 35 years, from big-name high-street brands to small, local businesses.
If you would like to discuss how we can improve your retail stocktaking – give us a call on 01637 874609 or make an online enquiry here, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.