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    Rising crime leads retailer to consider future in retail

    Retailer Ben Selvaratnam

    A Nisa retailer has admitted he considered his future in the retail industry due to a surge in retail crime over the past year.

    Ben Selvaratnam, owner of Freshfields Market in Croydon – a family-run Nisa partnered store, admits shoplifting has become such an issue that they are targeted by three to 10 thefts or attempted thefts a day. Financially this costs Ben and his family hundreds of pounds a week.

    The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said this summer shoplifting had risen 27 per cent across ten of the largest cities in the UK, with some cities up as much as 68 per cent.

    It estimates that shops lost £953million to customer theft last year – the greatest loss on record in recent years. And official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that shoplifting rose 24 per cent between March 2022 and March 2023.

    Speaking on Respect for Shop Workers Week, Ben said, “It’s like we must accept that this is the price of running a small business. This is an industry we love but that love is being chipped away at every day by criminals who put our safety and livelihoods at risk.

    “So many people would just say I don’t need this in my life. Why would I work so hard, take so much risk and try and make a living when someone can just walk in at the end of the day and take all the money I’ve earned and walk out with it and there will be no consequences for them?

    “Until things improve, we just have to stay here and try to deal with this ourselves.”

    Ben’s business is targeted on average between three and ten times a day with some staff now doubling up as security guards in a bid to deter shoplifters.

    “It’s just very tough for us just to survive so this does have a massive impact. We now watch the CCTV at all times. We’re trying to manage a situation where we’re almost getting swamped.

    “[On one occasion] they were challenged by two members of the team. They looked and said: “I’m not giving it back, I’m not going to pay for it. What are you going to do? It can happen anywhere between three to 10 times every day.”

    Rising crime leads retailer to consider future in retail

    The store catches thieves by having one member of staff to constantly monitor the store’s CCTV, and have a policy of confronting them. They position items at the front of the shelves facing forward meaning they know instantly if items are missing.

    They’ve also reduced their opening hours from 8.30am to 9pm instead of 11pm after they noticed a spike in incidents late at night.

    Nisa recently welcomed the publication of the new Retail Crime Action Plan, which sets out the way that police should respond to and investigate thefts against convenience stores and other retail businesses.

    • Prioritising attendance at the scene of crimes where violence has been used
    • The use of facial recognition technology to check CCTV evidence against the Police National Database
    • Identifying ‘hot spot’ locations where additional patrols would be beneficial
    • Dealing with organised crime through the creation of a new dedicated intelligence team
    • How retailers should report crimes when they occur

    Crime and Policing Minister, Chris Philp – also MP for Croydon South where Ben’s store is located – said: “I want a new zero-tolerance approach to tackling shoplifting. It is a blight on our highstreets and communities and puts the livelihoods of traders at risk. I am determined to drive forward change.

    Although welcoming the suggested plan, Ben would still like to see a more visible Police presence on the high street to enable swifter action against offenders.

    “We welcome the action and hope to see the authorities attend as many of these incidents as possible, but the proof will be in the numbers over the coming months. If these offenders know there will be serious consequences for their actions, I’m certain the rate of these incidents will reduce but we need Police action now to get us to that position.”

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