Every year, the Global Retail Theft Barometer provides an unparalleled overview of how retailers around the world are suffering from theft and violent crime. As Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski reports, this year’s findings make for sobering reading for UK businesses

Business crime took a rare place in the public mind last week as a global report was published that showed food theft from retailers had risen across the UK in the past 12 months.

The 2012-13 Global Retail Theft Barometer, a collaboration by Euromonitor International and Checkpoint Systems, provided a stark picture of the continuing blight of business crime to retailers of every kind. According to the data, shoplifting is the cause of 36% of retailers’ total losses, narrowly beating staff crime, which stood at 33%.

With the economy blamed for the rise, products such as cheddar cheese, fresh meat and coffee were the top grocery products to be stolen.

The report did suggest, however, that while food and convenience retailers faced more crime than other sectors, the overall impact on them was not necessarily higher than on electronics and other high-value retailers. “Grocery retailers also experience a comparatively high number of cases, but value per case is relatively low. Grocery retailers have a lot of foot traffic and low-value items are stolen more frequently,” it said.

Priti Patel MP was quick to speak out, stating her belief that retail crime has a significant impact on local shops. “This survey has reiterated that retail theft is not a victimless crime,” she told RN.

“Thefts from shops have a terrible impact on businesses and hard-pressed families, who ultimately pay the price. Local shops are hit hard every day by thefts and it’s about time the courts and police started handing down meaningful punishments to offenders to serve as a deterrent.”

It’s a timely statement on an issue that needs urgent action. One of the most disturbing passages of the report outlined that “the number of robberies and burglaries increased during the review period and that robberies became more violent and more likely to involve weapons”.

Sadly, regular RN readers will not be surprised. Last week, we told the story of heroic Ranvir Bassi who fended off a shotgun-wielding robber who threatened her and her seven-year-old daughter. This week, we report another case where Bonnyrig retailer Mohammed Abdullah was beaten with the end of a handgun and head-butted multiple times in his shop – only to return to work days later.

Russell Holland, UK general manager of Checkpoint Systems, suggests that retailers are already doing much to fight crime in their stores and communities but that the recession means they are fighting what amounts to a losing battle. “Over the last year, retailers have certainly been making great strides in the fight against retail crime. However, times are still tough for many families across the country, hence the increase in theft of high-value foodstuffs.”

Amid the bleak statistics, however, there was some more positive news for convenience retailers. Focusing specifically on the convenience channel, the report congratulated the sector, noting that “loss prevention systems and processes improved tremendously over the review period”.

It also highlighted a key advantage that independent retailers have over larger stores. “For the convenience stores interviewed, shoplifting is fairly low. This is because most high-value items and items at the highest risk of being stolen are typically kept behind the counter, such as alcoholic drinks.”

In a further positive passage, the report looked at the overall grocery market and concluded that “convenience stores [over the research period] have achieved growth as UK consumers looked for more convenience, less food wastage and better value for money non-grocery retailers.”