Retailers need to be wary when shopping at Costco sites, a Fed member robbed at one of its depots last week has warned.
The incident at the Watford depot on 3 August is just the latest in a string of reports of van break-ins and tobacco robberies taking place in the wholesaler’s car parks in the past month, including multiple thefts across its Farnborough, Hayes and Watford sites.
Nilesh Patel, owner of Premier Express Welham Green in Hatfield, told RN he lost £5,000 of tobacco purchased from the Watford depot in the attack. After being accompanied to his van by depot staff and loading the tobacco into the vehicle, men climbed out of a black Mitsubishi SUV, opened the van door and pulled out the tobacco bag. “It all happened in under 10 seconds,” he said. Despite a chase at the scene involving the retailer and depot staff, the culprits are understood to have escaped. Patel alleged a similar incident at the same car park had taken place moments before he was targeted.
“My wife was in the vehicle and was still recovering from being held at knifepoint during a robbery two years ago – the incident last week has left her feeling broken,” he added.
Days before, RN spoke to staff at the Hayes depot following reports of similar incidents. “There are always robberies here and there,” the team member responded nonchalantly. Other Fed members in the area reported being warned of recent incidents by other retailers and depot staff.
Patel told RN: “They said the robberies were my responsibility, not theirs. They need to do more to keep customers safe. They have barriers at the depot entrance to protect themselves, but what about their customers? The barriers should be at the entrance to the car park.”
On 26 July, three individuals reported vans being broken into using power drills at Costco in Farnborough, Hampshire. On 31 July, there were reports of tobacco thefts from Costco in Hayes.
When approached about these incidents, Costco failed to respond. However, when approached about calls for car park entrance barriers by RN back in 2021, a spokesperson said they were unable to comment on “current or specific security measures”, but stated: “As members of the FWD’s crime committee, we are fully informed of the fact that this is a nationwide issue for the industry as a whole, as opposed to our members being any more vulnerable to this type of criminal activity.”
In 2021, then home secretary Priti Patel pledged to crack down on store owners being targeted at cash and carries, stating the police response was “not good enough”. The Fed agreed, describing the attacks as “another strand of crime, along with shoplifting and the increasing number of verbal and physical attacks, that independent retailers have to contend with on a daily basis.”
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