One of the most common crimes committed in the UK is theft from retail outlets.

External theft, which includes shoplifting and organised retail crime, is becoming more common year on year. In March 2019, there were 374,395 cases of shoplifting reported, but the actual number of shoplifting cases is likely to be between 15 and 20 times higher than this.

So, how much do UK retail stores such as supermarkets typically lose to theft each year?

The cost of retail theft in UK supermarkets

The latest figures are taken from the report Retail Crime Costs in the UK 2019. This gave a figure for external theft from supermarkets and other retail stores of £1,993 million during that year.

This number accounted for 34.6% of total shrinkage – the term used to describe a store having fewer items in stock than the amount recorded in its inventory.

Which products are most commonly stolen from UK supermarkets?

The most common items stolen from UK supermarkets are toiletries and hygiene products, fresh produce (such as fruit, vegetables, and meat) and baby formula.

Sadly, these items are sometimes stolen by individuals who are struggling to cope due to tough financial pressures. However, organised criminal gangs also often steal these products to sell them on for profit.

The rise in the use of self-service checkouts has led to an increase in cases of shoplifting from supermarkets in the UK, with a recent shocking survey finding that one in three Brits admitted to stealing items using self-service checkouts in 2022 alone.

When committing theft in this way, shoppers typically select inexpensive but heavy items on the screen that need to be purchased by weight, such as onions or potatoes. They then actually bag more costly foods, such as avocados or bananas. The scanners weigh the items, but can’t actually recognise what each product is without a barcode.

How retail security services can help supermarkets to reduce theft

UK supermarkets have had to up their game to beat the problems of shoplifting and theft committed by employees. Improved CCTV systems and retail security services are the key elements in the fight against theft from stores.

CCTV can help to identify criminals, and the footage can provide valuable evidence in a prosecution.

However, nowadays, CCTV alone often isn’t an effective enough deterrent. The presence of retail security guards in a supermarket, on the other hand, is far more off-putting to would-be shoplifters. Additionally, a security guard can deal with suspicious behaviour immediately, often before a crime has even taken place.

If retail workers spot a shoplifter, the most they can do is call the police, as they are not trained to deal with these often stressful and demanding situations.

As the police have limited resources, they will frequently not attend for losses under a certain amount. Recently, supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s have called upon the British police to focus more heavily on retail crime, as the cost of living crisis has led to an increase in theft.

As it’s unlikely the police will attend your supermarket for the majority of petty theft incidents, it’s vital that supermarkets make use of retail security services to ensure that criminals can be dealt with immediately, ensuring the recovery of their stock.

Additionally, in circumstances where the police do decide to attend, retail security guards are trained to detain the suspect until their arrival.

A reassuring presence in any supermarket, T Class Security’s retail guards are also highly trained in customer service. Whether you require a friendly face at the entrance to your supermarket, keeping an eye on suspicious behaviour whilst greeting customers, or regular patrols of your store by a security guard who can assist your customers, we are here to help.

Get in touch

To find out more about how our retail security services can help to reduce theft from supermarkets, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can give us a call on 0203 7948182, or send us a message using our online contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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