Retailers perform better in mystery shopper knife audits

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Retailer pass rate for mystery shopper knife audits jumped to 82 percent in 2018, compared to 75 percent in 2017 and 57 percent five years ago, according to new data from Serve Legal.

The independent retail age check auditor deployed more teenage mystery shoppers to stores across the UK in 2018 to buy kitchen and other household knives as government acts to reduce violent crime.

Over 4,150 of the firm’s teenage mystery shoppers – a 76 percent increase on 2017 audit numbers (2,357) – 82 percent were asked to show age identification at the point of purchase.

Supermarkets almost doubled their knife sale audit numbers in 2018 (3,211) compared to 2017 (1,685) and achieved the highest pass rate (85%) of bricks and mortar retailers tested.

Homeware stores increased their audit numbers by 37 percent in 2018 (919) vs 2017 (672) and improved their test rates from 59 percent (2017) to 74 percent (2018).

London was the best performing area of the UK, with the capital’s retailers passing 87 percent of knife sale tests, compared to 82 percent in 2017.

In 2018, against a backdrop of record knife crime, the Home Office announced that it would take action to tackle the root causes by launching the Serious Violence Strategy. One of the measures suggested includes test purchases of knives through Trading Standards and a prosecution fund was put in place until 2020 to enforce the law for repeat test purchase failure.

“Against a tightening government stance on violent crime, our audit data for 2018 shows a significant improvement in retailer action to keep knives out of circulation amongst young people which we hope will continue to be an upward trend,” said Ed Heaver, Director at Serve Legal.

In England and Wales, it is illegal to sell a knife, blade or axe to a person under the age of 18, while Scottish law allows sales of kitchen knives to children aged 16 and over.