Co-op, one of the UK’s leading convenience retailers, has welcomed the new Government Retail Crime Action Plan but warns that there is still a long way to go in addressing the issue of retail crime. The company has recorded almost 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence, and anti-social behavior so far this year, marking a 43% increase from the previous year.
Of particular concern is the fact that Co-op’s specialist security teams have detained 3,000 offenders in 2023, but the police failed to show up in almost four-fifths (76%) of these incidents. This lack of police response creates a dangerous environment for store workers and local communities.
The Retail Crime Action Plan, announced in October, aims to ensure police attendance in stores to tackle violence. It also aims to ensure that evidence is collected and every reasonable line of inquiry is followed. Co-op Managing Director, Matt Hood, stated that while the company is pleased that the issue of retail crime has been acknowledged, urgent action is needed to respond to the calls for help from front-line colleagues and to make criminals realise there are consequences to their actions.
Co-op has invested over £200 million in colleague and store safety and security, including the use of CCTV, body-worn cameras, and dummy packaging to deter theft. The company also works closely with over a quarter of UK police forces to address retail crime. However, it highlights that more areas need to step up and work with retailers to make a real impact in combating this issue.
This week, Co-op is hosting over 50 Members of Parliament and a number of Police and Crime Commissioners in their stores across the UK to highlight the impact of retail crime on store colleagues. The company’s efforts align with the start of USDAW’s annual Respect for Shop Workers week, which aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by retail workers.
Both Co-op and USDAW are calling for stronger measures to protect retail workers, including a standalone offence of assaulting or abusing a worker serving the public. They argue that current government policies and underfunding of the police contribute to the perception that theft from shops has been effectively decriminalised.