Police do not respond to convenience stores as quickly as they do to large shops, it has been revealed – backing up claims made by senior MPs and industry representatives.

MP Martin Vickers, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Retail Crime, acknowledged that a Freedom of Information (FOI) request had uncovered an imbalance in the way police handle crime in the multiples compared to independent stores.

“I have come to the conclusion that police forces do indeed approach retail crime with dissimilar priorities,” he told Retail Express. “This is something that the APPG will be addressing in the coming months.”

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“Police forces approach retail crime with dissimilar priorities”

Martin Vickers MP

Speaking to Retail Express, NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said the investigation had proved police responses worked in favour of multiple retailers.

“The NFRN believes that there is an imbalance between the way retail crime is handled in the multiples as opposed to independent and smaller convenience stores and newsagents,” he said.

“The FOI data we obtained showed a ‘postcode lottery’ in the way crime is categorised when comparing the multiples and independent retailers.

“We believe that no crime is too small and that it should not matter which police force the crime occurs under before it’s taken seriously. These imbalances discourage retailers from reporting crime – police across the UK should do more to protect small businesses and their staff.”

The findings are the latest blow to independents hit by crime. In June, a top cop told Retail Express that police will not immediately respond to shoplifters unless they are deemed to pose threat, harm or risk.

The inequality in treatment was further exposed by a recent Guardian report on an arrest made in a Buckinghamshire Waitrose. Innocent Christopher Seddon was grabbed by the police, handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of shoplifting after being mistakenly identified by CCTV.

Independent retailers said they don’t receive the same level of support from the police. “Police figures show that their responses to the multiples are quicker – some forces even fail to produce those figures when asked,” said Narinder Randhawa, owner of Randhawa News in Stechford, Birmingham. “It’s not fair – retail crime is very stressful and we shouldn’t have to put up with it for doing our jobs.”

“We all pay our taxes, so we should get the same treatment”

Pravin Shah

Saf Sathi of Singlewell Post Office in Gravesend, Kent, said the store he previously owned had regularly needed police help with loitering teenagers, but he had often felt “they didn’t want to know”.

“If it was a supermarket, they would have been moved along,” he said. “And I think the multiples definitely get more help with shoplifters.”

Meanwhile, Pravin Shah, who owns 7am-10pm in Luton, said it was “definitely true” that the police were more supportive of the multiples.

“The multiples get an immediate response,” he said. “It isn’t just supermarkets – the police handle any case involving a big-name chain better than they’d handle crime in an independent store. The KFC near me recently had a response within minutes, whereas I had to wait nearly four hours last time I tried to get the police to my store.

“We all pay our taxes, so we should get the same treatment. It’s totally unfair – independents need more support.”