Three trends that will shape retail crime in 2023

Simon Speight
20 February, 23

The retail sector is facing a period of turbulence as the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills puts a strain on businesses and consumers alike. Images of security tags attached to butter and shoppers scrambling for reduced items have been widely circulated. Beneath this lies a significant risk to staff and an increase in theft that is predicted to grow as the UK’s economy worsens. According to the 2022 Crime Report of the Association of Convenience Stores, 89% of store staff working alone have faced abuse in their job, with theft costing a single store on average £1,066.   

What should retailers expect and how they can prepare for the coming year? Below, three key trends that will shape retail crime in the coming year:

1. Shoplifting on the rise

Shoplifting is a crime that can correlate to crisis. As budgets tighten, retailers should expect a spike in both spontaneous and organised retail theft. Smash and grab attacks are already on the rise. These attacks are organised by co-ordinated groups who force their way into a business, grab as much merchandise as possible, and escape in waiting vehicles. Just recently, London department store Selfridges was the victim of a smash and grab attack that saw more than £200,000 worth of luxury bags stolen. These assaults are notoriously difficult to manage because of how quickly a large group can act.

Thefts like these pose a serious threat to shop staff and cause significant physical damage. Businesses may consider keeping expensive items behind the counter, or arming staff with body cameras. An increased security presence can also go a long way in deterring theft, although guards can still be overwhelmed by large groups.

2. Empty buildings left vulnerable

It’s a sad reality that many commercial properties are already vacant, with the prospect or more retailers looking to downsize or shut up shop. It’s a serious problem for landlords and local authorities as empty properties are not just an eyesore; they also pose a significant security risk too. Unattended sites without a security presence can easily become hotspots for graffiti, trespass, theft and other criminal activities.

Rapidly deployable self-monitored camera systems and intrusion detection units should be considered, either in isolation or alongside a traditional manned guarding presence. These units provide vocal warning systems that are proven to deter criminals and can be deployed for as short or long a time as necessary before a new tenant can be found.

Moreover, by using the latest security systems, businesses can reduce exposure to the cost pressures of inflation driven wage increases and the current labour shortages, while enhancing the effectiveness and resilience of their security function.

3. Security requires a layered approach

As crime increases, retailers will be looking to secure further protection. A combined suite of products will be increasingly required to predict, deter and detect criminal activities in the new year.

Shutters, barriers and CCTV are the first line of defence many retailers will think of. CCTV is primarily a powerful deterrent, but it also increases the chance of conviction if a theft does occur. CCTV can be paired with other solutions such as a forensic marking spray to increase the chances of punishment for criminals. Sprays such as SmartWater SmartSpray can be installed above entry points or near to vulnerable products. Once activated, a trace of SmartWater the size of a full stop is enough to conclusively link an individual back to the scene of the crime.

Whatever the measures put in place they should be clearly communicated through prominent signage inside and outside of the store. A significant proportion of their value is in acting as a deterrent that discourages gangs from targeting a specific store in the first place.

Out of hours, intrusion detection units can be linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) to provide remote round the clock monitoring and rapid response should a crime occur. Given the increase in smash and grab raids, it is becoming common for stores to keep these in the stock room during the day before positioning them in the shop window at night. With the cost of traditional guarding rising with the national minimum wage, our tech fills the gap being both more cost effective and reliable.

As we head into an uncertain new year, many shops will be looking to protect the livelihoods of their business and staff. It is likely that thefts and business closures will rise in 2023, but with a co-ordinated security solution, business owners can rest easy knowing that both their staff and sites are protected.

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