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Supermarkets are a key target for retail crime – Usdaw calls for action to protect shopworkers

Date: 20 September 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed their call for action to protect shopworkers after research finds that supermarkets suffered the highest proportion of retail crime at 54.42%. Department stores were second with 6.19% and convenience stores were third with 6.03% of retail theft. Insurance comparison website Money.co.uk extracted crime data for England & Wales to see which retail sectors have been the worst victims of shop theft.
Recently, Co-op revealed they have seen crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour jump 35% year-on-year, with more than 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of this year, almost 1,000 incidents every day. Reports show that nearly two-thirds (63%) of crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders, with drug or alcohol addictions and local organised criminal gangs among the main drivers of offending.
Over the summer, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed new research showing that retail theft increased by an average of 27% across ten of the largest cities in the UK. The data also shows that incidents grew by as much as 68% in some cities. In addition, their recent crime survey revealed that incidents of violence and abuse against retail employees increased from more than 450 per day in 2019-2020 to more than 850 per day last year.
The latest police recorded crime statistics for England and Wales showed that in the 12 months to March there was a 24% increase in shoplifting. In Scotland there was a 21% increase in the 12 months to June. Usdaw’s own annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers found that 31% of incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers related to shoplifting, which is not only higher than in 2019 but also more than double the 2016 level.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This latest research will send a chill down the spine of our members, the majority of whom work in supermarkets. However, they will not be surprised because they are on the frontline of retail and have been reporting significant recent increases in theft from shops, mainly by gangs and organised criminals, often linked to drugs. This increase is driven not by people struggling to make ends meet stealing the odd item in a cost of living crisis, it is industrial scale theft and it appears that supermarkets are a prime target for these criminals.
“Shoplifting is not a victimless crime. Theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.
“Our annual survey found that three-quarters of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops was the trigger for nearly a third of these incidents last year. Particularly concerning is that just over half of those who did the survey said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.
“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, along with a growing epidemic of retail crime, much more needs to be done.  There must be legislation across the UK to make it a specific offence to abuse or assault a shopworker. We also need better coordination to ensure that government, retail employers, police and the courts work together to help protect shopworkers, giving them the respect they deserve.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 350,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades www.usdaw.org.uk
Money.co.uk is an online comparison website https://www.money.co.uk/business-insurance/shop-insurance Their research found the number of shoplifting crimes (top 10) recorded between August 2020 and July 2023.
Rank Retail store type # of crimes % of crimes 
1 Supermarket 233,906 54.42%
2 Department store 26,586 6.19%
3 Convenience 25,914 6.03%
4 Clothes 24,841 5.78%
5 Variety store 23,792 5.54%
6 Fuel 18,698 4.35%
7 Pharmacy 11,426 2.66%
8 Charity 6,409 1.49%
9 Furniture 5,816 1.35%
10 Shoes 5,472 1.27%
Final results of the Usdaw 2022 survey, based on 7,752 responses, show that (last year’s results in brackets): 74.26% (89%) were verbally abused, 49.25% (63%) were threatened. 7.92% (12%) had been assaulted. 40.88% said violence, threats and abuse caused them anxiety at work and 29.97% are now considering changing job. Top triggers for abuse: 34% shoplifting and armed robbery, along with 16% age-restricted sales. The full report can be found at: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2...
Recorded Crime in Scotland: year ending June 2023 https://www.gov.scot/news/recordedcrime-in-scotland-year-ending-june-2023
Crime in England and Wales: Police Force Area data tables:
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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