A perfect storm of spiralling energy bills, food price inflation and stagnating salaries could trigger an unprecedented rise in shoplifting, as cash-strapped consumers turn to crime to maintain their lifestyles, and in some cases, just to get by.

According to the latest official police figures, 2021 brought some short-term respite for retailers, with shoplifting rates marginally declining by 2.6%, to a total of 238,118 – 6,355 cases fewer compared with 2020. However, with violent or abusive incidents on the rise – up by 9% in 2020, according to the BRC Annual Crime survey – retailers can’t afford to be complacent, with customer theft reported to constitute the vast majority of losses at a value of £770m[1].

Analysing the UK’s police and crime data, by Checkpoint Systems, a leading global provider of source-to-shopper solutions to the retail industry for more than 50 years, found that of all the reported shoplifting cases in England, an incredible 52% were closed with no suspect identified. Equally concerning is the fact that police were unable to prosecute in the 13% of cases where suspects were identified, meaning that more than 65% (155,097) of shoplifters went unpunished in 2021.

It’s not clear why so many suspects did not face the judicial process; if similar percentages are applied to what we suspect will be a significant rise in shoplifting, retailers could face losses worth millions. One way retailers can future-proof against these losses is to invest in the products and solutions designed to enhance product protection, operational and store environment needs. Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) is one way to combat this and has been protecting against grocery retail shrink for over 45 years[2].

Image of shoplifter stealing a bottle

The leader in loss prevention

Loss prevention solutions which encompass antennas, labels, tags, Alpha high-theft solutions and software are proven tools to protect merchandise from theft. Furthermore, with the breadth of award-winning solutions on offer, Checkpoint Systems is helping retailers protect the entire store environment aiding the open display of goods on shelf, while improving customer service and staff safety as the deterrent effect of EAS will likely drive shoplifters away.

Mike French, Business Unit Director from Checkpoint Systems UK explains: “The UK’s retail industry has been a tale of two halves over the past two years, with some sectors benefiting from the increased time consumers have spent at home, while others have been forced to focus on simply keeping their business afloat. With the pandemic easing and things starting to return to normal, they might think they can relax a little, but the likelihood that the current economic crisis will lead to a major shoplifting crime wave is high, particularly later in the year when energy bills begin to bite and in the run-up to the festive season.

“Energy bills have already increased by around half and are set to rise again in the autumn, while food and drink inflation is also seeing supermarket prices rising rapidly. In fact, a recent report from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) cited3 that inflation reached a 30-year high in April, while household incomes fell in real terms[4]and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

Mike adds: “We’d advise retailers to carefully review their current in-store security arrangements and staff training procedures sooner, rather than later to protect valuable products without compromising the in-store experience for most shoppers.”

Retail staff checking on shelf products

Audit, Train and Maintain with Checkpoint Systems

It’s vital that employees are equipped with the knowledge and insights to optimise retailers’ investments. Guided and focused training is paramount to empower store staff to understand the importance of in-store security technology installed.

Through its Check&Secure® programme, Checkpoint’s Alpha High-Theft Solutions are offering a programme of auditing, implementation, guided and focused training and ongoing support for all retail staff.  We want to help retailers to optimise product protection and improve the customer experience via bespoke training on the latest innovations. It means store staff can help to ensure retailers are getting the best, continuous performance from their in-store protection systems, resulting in fewer thefts and increased sales potential.

[1] https://brc.org.uk/media/674208/crime-survey-2020.pdf

2 https://1stdirectory.co.uk/_assets/files_comp/8019ec26-a3ec-455c-be68-5136f5a450fe.pdf

3 Viewpoint: Conflict compounds cost of living crisis (igd.com)

[4] Living standards continue to fall (igd.com)