As the cost of living crisis continues and crime rates rise across the UK, increased shoplifting incidents are leaving drinks retailers feeling the repercussions. One store owner told Drinks Retailing about how shoplifting has impacted his business, and what needs to be done to support retailers

Amid rising prices, reports of shoplifting are on the increase.

Recently, The Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) urged the government to support independent retailers in light of a 24% rise in shoplifting across England and Wales in the year ending March 2023. 

The Fed’s national president, Muntazir Dipoti, said: “The burden of crime prevention shouldn’t fall on retailers’ shoulders. Government intervention is crucial to safeguard retailers, particularly smaller shops.”

Benedict Selvaratnam (pictured), owner of Freshfields Market in Croydon, spoke to Drinks Retailing about his recent experiences with shoplifting, saying a “high volume” of wines, spirits and occasionally craft beers are stolen from the premises.

“I doubt these are being stolen for personal consumption, but rather for resale value,” said Selvaratnam, who suggested that rising prices are playing a part in increased crime rates.

“The cost of living crisis and inflation has clearly had an impact on people’s disposable income.”

Speaking of newly introduced security measures, Selvaratnam said: “We’ve had people jump over the counter to steal spirits so we’ve had to install glass/steel barriers around the till area. We’ve also moved high value wines and spirits to locked cabinets on the top shelves.”

In a move to minimise crime in peak times, Selvaratnam has now employed weekend security.

“Shoplifting has had a massive impact on the business,” he said. “Unfortunately, the police do not always attend call outs, so no one but us is there to enforce the ban – this often leads to heated arguments. 

“There is widespread realisation that police will not attend shoplifting incidents under the value of £50, so shoplifters have become brazen, knowing that they will be able to get away with these offences.”

To reduce incidents of shoplifting, Selvaratnam urged for a change in police response: “Policy change must occur so at least a caution is issued at the police station – like it was in the past. That may help.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told Drinks Retailing that the Met cannot respond to every shoplifting case in London due to demand, but will aim to dispatch officers when “a suspect is on the scene, and the situation has or is likely to become heated or violent”. 

Looking ahead, the spokesperson said the Met is developing a new strategy which involves working directly with “business and retail leads right across London to identify what matters to them, including the safety of shop based workers and shoplifting”.

Elsewhere, a London-wide roll-out of ‘Op Retail’, a new system of reporting shoplifting incidents where no offender has been detained or violence occurred, will be taking place in the autumn.

“We work with retail leads in London and we know first-hand the impact shoplifting and attacks on shop workers is having on individual staff and the wider business community,” the spokesperson said.

“Our advice is to intervene in line with your role and employers’ expectations only where it is safe to do so. If it feels like the situation is getting heated or violent, or someone is in immediate danger please call 999 and stay safe until arrival of police.”

As part of the Fed and BIRA’s letter to policing minister Chris Philp, the organisations have called for a grant of up to £1,500 per retailer, to help tackle shoplifting.