Shoplifting cost Scottish retailers around £90m last year

According to the latest compiled crime statistics, there were 28,619 shoplifting offenses in Scotland in 2022-23, compared with 22,913 in 2021-22, an increase of 25%.

Although this increase can be partly explained by the Covid restrictions in place for much of 2021 and 2020, interest rates are still 3% higher than a decade ago.

While the rise in shoplifting coincides with the cost of living crisis, both the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) have given evidence that some thefts are being carried out by organized crime, with gangs rampaging up entire towns and then moving on .

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It’s also likely that actual crime figures are significantly higher than statistics, as many retailers don’t bother to report low-value thefts to the police.

The Scottish Grocers Federation said a recent survey of its members found that “100% of retailers are regularly affected by crime”.

Last month, the co-operative warned that rising retail crime could result in some communities becoming ‘no-go’ areas for their stores.

Across the UK, retailers lost £953m last year, with the Scottish Retail Consortium estimating that crime north of the border accounted for just under a tenth of that.

They warn that theft not only has an economic impact on businesses, but can also result in people working in stores being mistreated.

In its latest annual survey of over 7,500 store workers, the Usdaw union found that in 2022, 31% of incidents of violence, threats and abuse were related to shoplifting.

In 2021, Scotland introduced the Workers Protection (Retail) Act following a campaign by SGF and Labor’s Daniel Johnson.

Since its inception two years ago, 6,591 cases have been reported under the law, with a detection rate of 61%.

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Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The SRC estimates that shoplifting cost Scottish retailers around £90m last year.”

“Far from being a victimless crime, the cost of shoplifting is borne by both shoppers and those whose livelihoods depend on retail.”

“Theft in stores means there is less money available for price reductions on store shelves, for employee salaries or training, or for renovations and other store improvements.”

SGF Managing Director Dr. Pete Cheema said members are encouraged to report all crime in stores: “Retailers and employees provide an essential service to the community. It is totally unacceptable that they are forced to show up to work and deal with daily cases of shoplifting, antisocial behavior and even threats of abuse or violence.

“Our figures show that 100% of retailers are regularly affected by crime that significantly impacts the well-being of workers and their families.

“There also appears to be a worrying increase in incidents involving gangs and organized crime.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Ritchie told the Herald on Sunday that any reported crime will be taken seriously and investigated.

“Although commercial crime increased by 13.5% compared to the same period last year, it is still below the five-year average and compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

“The increase could be due to a variety of reasons and not just limited to the rise in the cost of living.

“Burglaries remain well below pre-pandemic levels, while shoplifting and vehicle crime are below five-year averages, despite a year-on-year increase.”

A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service: “We would urge any victim or witness of any such crime to come forward and report them to the police.”

“COPFS will carefully review all reports of suspected criminal conduct submitted by the police.

“Criminal prosecution will be instituted if the reports contain sufficient admissible evidence of a crime and if it is reasonable and in the public interest to do so.”

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