Pure Beauty

Sephora, Boots and Space NK call on UK government to tackle ‘unacceptable’ surge in retail crime

By Austyn King | Published: 3-Oct-2023

Violence and abuse towards retail workers has almost doubled since the pandemic, according to the British Retail Consortium

Leading beauty retailers are calling on the UK government to take action against a rising wave of retail crime.

Sephora, Boots, Space NK, Superdrug and The Perfume Shop are among 88 retailers who have signed the open letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Violence and abuse towards retail workers has almost doubled compared to levels before the Covid-19 pandemic, with 867 incidents reported every day between 2021 and 2022, according to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) 2023 Crime Survey.

Retail crime – including theft, fraud, abuse and online scams – is estimated to cost the industry £1.76bn for the 12-month period to April 2023, found the BRC.

Shoplifting is estimated to have cost retailers around £1bn this year.

90% of shop workers are also said to have experienced verbal abuse, according to the Association of Convenience Stores.

Now, retailers are calling on the UK government to take action to protect businesses and employees.

This includes creating a standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker, with tougher sentences for offenders.

This would require police to record all incidents of retail crime, allowing them to better allocate resources to the issue, said the BRC.

Signatories have also called on UK police to prioritise retail crime, with one unnamed retailer alleging that police did not respond to 73% of serious retail crimes that were reported.

Police response was also rated ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ by 44% of retailers in the BRC’s survey.

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“It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse,” said Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“We are seeing a torrent of abuse aimed at hardworking shop staff.

“It is simply unacceptable – no one should have to go to work fearing for their safety.”

This includes “organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores”, as well as violence against employees asking for age verification.

“We need the government to stand with the millions of retail workers who kept us safe and fed during the pandemic – and support them, as those workers supported us.”

The news comes as UK retail sales increased in August, driven by beauty and health care sales which were up 4.1% during the month.

However, Dickinson also cautioned that sales growth could fall during the autumn months as consumers spend more cautiously due to higher interest rates and winter energy bills.

Retailers can read the full letter at brc.org.uk.

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