A shocking new report reveals that crime against convenience stores in the UK continues to skyrocket, costing the sector over £125 million annually. The Crime Report 2023 published by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) details alarming rises in shoplifting, violence, verbal abuse and sophisticated criminality targeting corner shops and forecourts across the country.
The study estimates the total “crime tax” faced by convenience retailers now stands at a staggering 6p per transaction. This is placing huge financial strain on often small, family-run stores working at the heart of local communities. It is also seriously undermining public safety, with the crime epidemic leading to frightened staff and customers.
Here are the top statistics from the ACS Crime Report 2023:
- £125 million – Total estimated cost of crime against convenience stores
- £2,574 – Cost of crime per convenience store
- 6p – ‘Crime tax’ per transaction
- 1.1 million – Estimated incidents of shop theft in the past year
- £228 million – Investment by retailers in crime prevention over the past year
- 16% – Proportion of retail crime reported to police
- 41,000+ – Estimated incidents of violence against staff
- 759,000 – Estimated incidents of verbal abuse against staff
- 33% – Proportion of verbal abuse that is hate-motivated
- 11,000+ – Estimated burglaries and robberies targeting convenience stores
- 11,000+ – Estimated number of cyber crime incidents against the sector
- £19.5 million – Estimated cost of cyber crime incidents
Shop theft remains devastatingly commonplace. ACS estimates over 1.1 million incidents occurred last year, driven by ruthless repeat offenders. The perpetrators are often addicted to drugs or alcohol, or acting as part of organised criminal groups. Meat, alcohol and confectionery are the most frequently stolen items.
Retailers have invested over £228 million in security measures like CCTV, external shutters and staff training. But shockingly only 16% of incidents are actually reported to police. Store owners feel a deep lack of confidence that crimes will be investigated amidst overstretched force resources.
Some innovative partnerships between police and retailers hold promise for tackling prolific shoplifters. “Most Wanted” lists are being trialled by some forces, identifying known repeat offenders. Criminal behaviour orders and referral to rehabilitation programmes are then fast tracked once individuals are apprehended.
But such initiatives are piecemeal. Concrete action and substantial funding for targeted policing and addiction services are urgently required nationwide.
Violence and Abuse Endemic
The human impact of retail crime is laid bare by the over 41,000 violent incidents estimated this year. Enforcing age restrictions on sales, confronting thieves and refusing intoxicated customers serve as common flashpoints for physical attacks. Knives and other weapons are routinely involved, with staff suffering injuries in 13% of incidents.
Alongside this, retailers report over 759,000 cases of verbal abuse. Shockingly, one third are believed to be motivated by hate towards individual’s personal characteristics. This appalling volume of threats and intimidation leaves many staff mentally scarred.
Some progress was made with the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act making abuse of retail teams an aggravating factor. But usage must be tracked to ensure the law delivers in practice. And Government should fund special counselling services to support the victims of abuse and violence.
As well as frequent petty thefts, convenience retailers are facing surging waves of sophisticated criminality. There has been an 11,000 spike in burglaries, ram raids and other attacks on stores themselves.
Organised criminal gangs are showing heightened expertise. They operate across police force boundaries targeting supply chains, distribution centres and ordering stock to steal from multiple stores. Cyber attacks have also soared, with over 11,000 hacking and phishing incidents believed to have hit the convenience sector this year.
Urgent Measures Needed
ACS make a series of urgent policy calls in response to this unchecked crime epidemic. They want to see police forces publish “most wanted” lists of prolific thieves in every area. Funding must also be channelled into proven rehabilitation programmes to break the cycle of addiction and offending.
The organisation also argues Government should incentivise investment in security measures, whilst regulators should enable innovative technology like facial recognition. And there are demands for existing powers to tackle anti-social behaviour to be deployed more consistently.
The message is clear – more partnership working between retailers, police, security providers and authorities is critical to finding lasting solutions. Only by addressing the root causes of crime, especially drug addiction, can we start to make our essential convenience stores and the communities they serve safer. But without concrete action now the crime plaguing corner shops will continue its corrosive impact nationwide.
This ACS report lifts the lid on the crime epidemic battering convenience retailers across the UK. From shoplifting to cyber attacks, sophisticated criminality is running rampant. Staff on the frontline suffer intolerable levels of violence and verbal abuse just trying to serve their community.
Convenience stores are resolute in their commitment to stay at the heart of neighbourhoods. But it is clear more support is desperately needed. Government, police and retailers must work hand in hand to implement urgent policy measures. And adequate funding for initiatives targeting prolific offenders is crucial.
The time has come to stop this crime tax draining resources from convenience stores. Only by joining forces can we start to make our corner shops and communities safer spaces for all.