Expert Comment: What can we do about the rise in shoplifting?

Categories: Salford Business School

The UK has seen a sharp increase in the number of reported shoplifting crimes, partially due to the cost-of-living crisis. Professor Vish Maheshwari, Associate Dean for Student Experience at Salford Business School explains.

Professor Vish Maheshwari Headshot

Shoplifting has become a widespread and persistent problem for retailers in the UK, affecting their profitability to an extent, but more importantly the safety and security of their staff. According to the Office for National Statistics, the total offences of shoplifting recorded by the police in England and Wales by September 2023, saw a year-on-year rise of nearly 25% to 402,482 as compared to 302,459 in September 2022.

However, this figure does not reflect the true scale of the problem, as many retailers do not report shoplifting incidents to the police due to the lack of resources, confidence, or support. It is understood that the products that are most frequently targeted by shoplifters include alcohol, meat, clothing, cosmetics, and electrical goods. In addition to the obvious impact of the ongoing cost of living crisis, which has led some individuals in committing shoplifting crime, there are other prevalent and intrinsic factors involved such as poverty, drug addiction and mental health issues.

The biggest detriment of shoplifting seems to be on the staff morale, which is now observed by the customers, up and down the country, as they are noticing lower levels of efficiency and consistency in the service received. There is also a further issue where retailers are putting up the costs on products and services, to recoup some of the loses, which means genuine customers are now ending up paying even more, as a result.

More than ever before, retailers are investing into various measures such as CCTV, security guards, tags, alarms, and awareness campaigns. However, given the alarming rise in shoplifting, there is a feeling that these measures are not always successful or sufficient, and retailers often face obstacles in reporting, prosecuting, and recovering from shoplifting incidents.

Therefore, the commitment for investment by the government could potentially contribute towards providing the retail businesses and its staff some sense of assurance towards this mounting problem. Equally, further investment from both the government and the retailers towards staff training in using some of the newer technologies and improvised ways of reporting the crime, without any negative consequences, might also go some way in tackling the issue of shoplifting.

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