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    ‘A third of shoppers have witnessed shoplifting’

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    A third of UK consumers has witnessed an instance of retail theft in the past 12 months, according to the latest research by Retail Insight, as retail crime continues to rise and shoplifting incidents surpass the highest levels since records began.

    Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers by Retail Insight revealed that 30 per cent had witnessed an instance of shoplifting during the past year, rising to 44 per cent of consumers in London. The poll also suggested that in the last 12 months the average UK shopper had witnessed four instances of theft in-store, rising to five shoplifting incidents for average consumers in London.

    While these numbers are alarming, retailers are responding by investing in their loss prevention (LP) strategies, which typically include the reduction of blind spots, placing high value items behind locked or secure cabinets, or increasing security presence in store.

    Retail crime is a growing and costly challenge for retailers. With the ONS reporting that more than 402,000 shoplifting offenses were recorded by police in 2023 – the greatest number since records began in 2002.  Last year, cases of convenience store theft increased fivefold, while the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warns UK retail staff now face 1,300 incidents of violence and abuse each day. Figures, also published by the BRC, suggest the total cost of retail crime to British retailers doubled in 2023 to £3.3billion.

    Responding to the findings, Paul Boyle, CEO of Retail Insight, states, “There’s little doubt that shoplifting poses a challenging and costly issue for retailers, many of whom are already giving away margin to keep the cost of everyday foods as low as possible for customers amidst cost-of-living pressures,” he said. “However, it’s important to consider that theft is just one driver of shrink and only tells part of the story.”

    While shoplifting accounts for an estimated 65 per cent of total shrink, process errors, which can have a dramatic impact on inventory signals, are estimated to cause a quarter (25 per cent) of all retail loss.

    “Often process errors creep in from legacy systems,” Boyle continued. “So, retailers need access to tech that pinpoints potential process failures and provides the data-led insights needed to resolve them to create effective loss prevention strategies.  And this requires a store-wide view of inventory, and the automation or prompts needed to correct stock inaccuracy, in order to mitigate loss and wider shrink.”

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