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AMID A RISE IN RETAIL CRIME, HOW CAN SUPPLIERS SUPPORT RETAILERS? 

24.04.2024
Written by Sam Wells
10 min read
AMID A RISE IN RETAIL CRIME, HOW CAN SUPPLIERS SUPPORT RETAILERS? 

Violent attacks against retailers rose 85% last year, Fleet Street senior account manager Sam Wells asks what suppliers can do to support the industry amid this troubling trend.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) 2023 Retail Crime Report reveals some distressing figures relating to retail crime, theft and burglaries in stores, illustrating just how severe the situation has become for many retailers across the UK.

The report reveals that violent attacks against retailers rose annually by 85% from 41,000 in 2022, to 76,000 in 2023. The ACS estimates there were over 1.1 million incidents of theft reported in this time frame, with crime against convenience retailers costing the sector an estimated £125m. This amounts to £2,754 per store, on average.

Demonstrating the scale of the issue, already in 2024, we have seen Co-op reporting record levels of theft and violence, while thieves in Buckinghamshire targeted a retailer in axe-wielding attack, all against a backdrop of the government voting against making violence against retail workers a specific offence.

As noted in the report, the most stolen items retailers have recounted are meat, alcohol and confectionery – typically high value items that can then be sold on by individuals, or part of wider organised crime groups.

The report has accelerated a conversation in trade media, with many convenience retailers coming forward to share their own experiences. This has led to the ACS calling on police forces and the government to do more to take retail crime seriously and support local businesses through a five-point action plan.

The question for suppliers keen to become partners to the trade by building trust, loyalty and advocacy, is how can they support independent retailers now questioning which products to stock and, in the worst cases, fearing for their lives?

We spoke to some of our retailer partners to better understand their experiences, what measures they’re putting in place, and how suppliers can support.

Aman Uppal, One Stop Mount Nod, Coventry

Our theft has tripled in the past year. It’ll get to a stage where I’m thinking about what products to stock – especially the more premium lines – because we have to accept that they may be targeted by criminals. This issue will affect our sales and therefore suppliers’ sales too. I don’t think brands, symbol groups or franchises are doing enough to help us.

What we need is dialogue. Our voices as retailers need to be heard, but suppliers’ voices are just as important – they have the influence to make this message heard.

If more brands come out and acknowledge the problem and make their voice heard, then it’ll go a long way in raising awareness. And if they are already speaking to Westminster, get us retailers involved – invite us to focus groups. If one brand was to lead that they would get a lot of respect from retailers.

Amit Puntambekar, Ash’s Shop, Fenstanton, Peterborough

Crime and theft in retail has always been, historically, under reported.

I don’t report most minor thefts, but the reality is that if someone steals £10-worth of product, three times a week, the total loss there is £1,560 per year. So, even the smaller offences can have a huge impact. In summer last year, in a four-week period, we had over £500-worth of impulse chocolate bars stolen. We’ve been targeted by drug addicts, and even had a person threaten myself and my staff with a hammer.

It’s annoying because our CCTV is fantastic. When the police do come out, they’re impressed because we have no blind spots. There’s nothing we can do – the only deterrent, which is hard to measure against, is to put security guards on site.

“The people committing these acts know they’re going to get away with it. There needs to be a support piece.

Susan Connolly, Spar Tidworth, Wiltshire

We were hit by a gang in January. They came by at 2am and got away with £8,000-worth of cigarettes. We’ve also had several instances of customer crime, especially in the past year or so.

We’ve considered several preventative measures, like dummy bottles at Christmas and cardboard boxes, for example. We have smoke screens in two of our stores – when the store fills up with smoke then people are likely to panic and leave.

I think a huge blocker is that some retailers might not know how to report a crime – we’ve given up reporting it. You’ve got to go online, submit CCTV and fill out forms. Some people might have learning difficulties or English may not be their first language – this is a huge barrier.

There is a huge opportunity for suppliers to support. If we could have PoS material that says ‘We’re now working with [X supplier] to combat crime’ – it sends out a clear message to those criminals and gives us extra backing.

And more generally – it’s about contacting that retailer to see if they want any help. I’m in a WhatsApp group with about 120 retailers and it’s a really good sounding platform. They give useful tips and just provide that emotional support. I know I can lean on them for advice.

We all go to events – trade press is always the first port of call. It’s important for brands to be showing up to those events and investing in them, and engaging with us to help build those relationships which ultimately lead to greater support on both sides.

 

So, what can suppliers make of this? Fleet Street’s recommendations are:

  1. Help to identify high-risk products

It’s important to know whether your products are being targeted and the reasons why, as well as working with customers to understand what measures can feasibly be implemented to ensure items are being stocked safely and securely.

For example, the ACS recommends retailers place alcohol and other high-value, targeted goods in view of the till. Brands can help amplify this message as part of their conversations with retailers and explore making dummy bottles available for those that need them during busy trading periods, such as Christmas.

  1. Utilising trade media

We know that 75.3% of retailers say they use trade press to stay up to date with the latest industry trends, with 78% using the trade press to keep informed of what is going on in the retail landscape.

Especially for those suppliers who might not have field sales team resources, the trade media landscape is a crucial tool for engaging with convenience retailers on a national scale. There is an opportunity for brands to utilise these platforms to ramp up key messaging around their products and services – communicating their stances on issues and showing how they are helping retailers tackle them.

  1. Make your presence known

Attending trade events and conferences allows suppliers to maximise their visibility, further cementing those relationships, and building loyalty and rapport from retailers. All the retailers we spoke to expressed a desire to hear more from suppliers, particularly during difficult times when certain products are at risk.

And, of course, we’re here to help too. If you’re a supplier who is keen to find out how trade press can be used as a vehicle in supporting your retail partners in the convenience channel, we would love to hear from you. Email us at hello@fsc.uk.com to get in touch.

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