Retail crime crisis

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has joined forces with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and other major retailers to call for action on the escalating crisis of retail crime.

Security guard in a shop

Alarmingly, a survey of members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), representing all the major chains, found levels of shoplifting in 10 of the biggest cities in the UK had risen by an average of 27% this year. In 2022, the HTA estimated £16 million worth of garden centre turnover had been lost to retail crime over the last 12 months. Over 70% of garden centres reported crime as an issue. In addition to the shoplifting, the BRC reports heightened violence against retail staff.

Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) commented:

“The HTAs retail members, the many much loved local garden centres across the UK, have been expressing increasing concern over the level and impact of theft from their premises. We are more and more often hearing reports of an increased value of goods stolen, an increased threat to staff or at worst assault, and most disappointingly a postcode lottery of police responses to reports of these crimes.”

“It goes without saying the safety of staff comes first. That is one of the reasons we are joining with the BRC and others to make this call to the Home Secretary to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker. More needs to be done to recognise the impact these situations can have on workers and businesses.”

“Ultimately, this also all adds costs on already stretched businesses. They have been forced to increase their spend and actions to increase their security and safety. This is all on top of high energy and input costs, a year of challenging weather and an unsettled economic climate.”

Just as already exists in Scotland, retailers across the UK, including Aldi and Superdrug are calling for the creation of a UK-wide aggravated offence of assaulting or abusing a retail worker which would carry tougher sentences and require police to record all incidents of retail crime and thereby allow the allocation of more resources. Currently, 44% of retailers in the BRC’s annual crime survey rated the police response as “poor” or “very poor”.

According to the Co-op’s managing director Matt Hood, shoplifting is becoming a major issue for UK communities and is better labelled as “shop looting”, where large amounts are stolen by organised gangs and is no longer just a last resort by those in real need. The Co-op has seen crime, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour increase 35% annually, with more than 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of this year alone, which is almost 1,000 incidents every day.