Retail Crime in the New Normal

Retail Crime in the New Normal

open shop sign

During the Pandemic it has been widely reported in the press and media that Crime in the Retail Sector has decreased.  

It is a fact that the closure of large numbers of shops and the restrictions on movement for the mass population has seen a reduction in losses to burglary and theft. Burglars have also followed Government guidelines and stayed at home.

However, by stark contrast, the number of violent attacks and anti-social behaviour aimed at retail staff has increased.


In March 2020 the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released their 2020 Retail Crime Survey.   The headline numbers were alarming:

·424 Violent or abusive incidents per day, an overall annual increase of 9%

·Record spending of £1.2 billion on Crime Prevention

·Over £1 billion lost to crime

·£770 million was attributed to Customer Theft (Shoplifting)

·70% of BRC respondents rating Police Response as 'Poor' or 'Very Poor'

In short, it was a deteriorating situation and showing no signs of improvement.

clothing shop, coats on racks

Covid comes to the UK

In January 2020 we turned on our TVs and started to see reports from China of this new strain of virus.   Over the next couple of months tensions rose in the UK until, on 23rd March 2020, the Prime Minister announced what was to be the first National Lockdown of the UK.


The PM's announcement sparked several bizarre consequences.   People wheeling shopping carts full of toilet rolls, shelves stripped of hand sanitizer, canned goods, rice and pasta.

New rules were introduced, haphazardly and sometimes overnight.   Retailers attempted to navigate an ever-changing landscape.   Massive strain on supply lines, new hygiene laws and 'Social Distancing'.

This mass hysteria had an almost immediate affect with assaults on staff and incidents of anti-social behaviour spiking alongside straightforward theft and shoplifting.

As the population retreated into their homes and hunkered down for the first time, we saw an immediate effect on losses to theft and burglary.  Bill Gazard, representing the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Centre for Crime and Justice, told the BBC that there had been a 'Significant fall' in property crime in England and Wales at the height of the Lockdown (April and May).

Somewhat predictably, as the lockdown eased so theft increased.

upmarket shopping mall

Mask Madness - Assaults on Shop Staff

In January 2020 someone walking into a bank or building society wearing a mask would have the staff reaching for the panic button.   In 2021 if you walk in without one you are likely to end up speaking with one of the Boys in Blue.

Sadly, responsibility for policing new mask and social distancing rules has mainly fallen to the retailer.

Inevitably, this has resulted in push back from a small part of the population, anti-maskers and louts have reacted violently to polite requests from shop staff.  

Larger retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury both reported a significant rise in anti-social behaviour linked to Covid rules.

Unsurprisingly, it is the smaller retail outlets that have borne the brunt of this emerging trend.

A spokesman for the Co-op reported an increase of 140% and described it as an 'epidemic'.   In an interview with The Grocer, he went on to explain: "We've had scores of instances of customer abuse, with colleagues also facing incidents of antisocial behaviour, verbal assaults and aggression."

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