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The Cost Of Shoplifting

Shoplifting offences and violence to staff in the UK are at record highs

One of the most common crimes facing the UK today (and the rest of the world ) is theft from retail outlets. 

Theft from UK retail outlets has risen 3% and is at a 13 year high costing retailers £335 million with 520,000 customer thefts reported in the year ending 2015.

In 2019 the total of retail shrinkage in the UK cost almost £5.6bn, with crime costing £4.214bn

It has been reported that external theft cost £1.993bn (34.6%), this category includes ORC crime and theft from customers, in the year ending March 2019 the Police recorded crimes was 374,395 shoplifting offences, this is reported by the Home Office (2019), the actual number of shoplifting cases are likely to be 15-21 times higher, than what was recorded.

ORC (organised retail crime) which consist of gangs or groups of criminals stealing a merchandise costs £562mn (28.2%).

Internal theft cost £1.3bn (22.1%) it is hard to determine a true reflection of loss from internal theft, as it is hard to detect the thefts taking place this is thought to be higher, "Collisions" is likely to be the main problem with internal theft collision is where a staff member turns a blind eye to relatives or friends, mis-scan items for the purpose of giving a relative or friend a "freebie" or they may give to much change back, this includes staff stealing for themselves or to sell on.

Losses from suppliers and warehouse crime £915mn (18%), these are mainly large scale theft though small scale pilfering can also come with a high price tag, especially when electronics or fashion is pilfered. 

Errors cost £1.202 bn in the year ending 2019, this is administrative errors, staff errors or simply an error, this can include machine errors for example an item priced wrongly on the system when scanned.

Violence along with shoplifting is becoming more prominent with a 41,000 violent incident reported in 2019 according to a report from a law firm called Anstey, which found that 31% of males working in retail have experienced physical aggression or violent behavior and 23% of women who work in the retail, which totals 25% of all retail staff and is set to rise.

The BRC 2019 found that 115 retail workers was injured everyday by unprovoked attacks, threats and actual violence has doubled since 2018, there are three main triggers for violence , the first being violent when stealing, second is violence as a response to age related challenges and the third is violence while intoxicated. 

Shoplifters fall into several categories:


"Professionals" - (Pre-planned and premeditated) They make their living by stealing - most often to their "customers" specifications.

They have to perfect their technique to operate . . .to remove labels with scissors or razor blades, that could incriminate them if they are caught. plus dozens of other clever "professional's tools".

Some take things they could easily pay for and perhaps do not even want. These offenders may suffer from kleptomania, a neurotic, irresistible impulse to steal. This is almost never done for the purpose of acquiring the item taken. 


The greatest number of shoplifters is "amateurs" or (opportunist). Usually, they have little money, few scruples & an intense desire to own luxuries.


Shoplifting “Gangs” are increasing year on year, they take the most risk if they are caught, but catching them has proven to be difficult, however new prevention strategies are available to help stop all types of shoplifters.


What Happens if you are caught Shoplifting?

If you are caught shoplifting, there are many possible consequences that you may be faced with, some of these are short term and others are long term.

The consequences of being caught shoplifting are:

Depending on the severity of the shoplifting offence – prison

A police caution

A criminal record

You may end up being arrested and taken into custody

You make a bad name for yourself and can be banned from the particular store

A Conviction for theft can hamper your chances of getting a job 

If you are arrested for shoplifting seek advice from a solicitor you may qualify for Legal Aid


What happens when you are not caught in the act shoplifting?

Many shoplifters will believe that once they are out of the store their “home and dry” however, this is not the case anymore as new revolutionary techniques to stop shoplifting are taking place in the UK, which means if you are not caught at the scene shoplifting it could get worse for you... you could be displayed on any of these crime prevention platforms.

Having your image displayed/stored on:






Police websites

Shop watch



Entered into a database to warn security guards of your presence when you enter a store


With the consequences of:

Be identified by your own community and/or family and friends

Kept on these websites until you are caught or hand yourself in

Make a bad name for yourself and you could be banned from the particular store

Depending on the severity of the shoplifting offence  – prison

A police caution

A criminal record

You may end up being arrested and taken into custody


How does shoplifting affect others?

Most people believe that shoplifting is essentially a victimless crime as in most cases nobody else is involved. This is not the case; the general public has to pay increased prices that can rise by as much as 10% to cover losses made from shoplifting.

The victims of shoplifting are:


The family of the shoplifter

The store owners and their families

The store workers

The shoplifter

The general public

The community the shoplifter lives in

The retail outlet is also affected in many ways by shoplifters, there is the inconvenience caused, the loss of stock and it is also time consuming for store owners to deal with the effects of shoplifting. "costing jobs, businesses and the communities we live in". 

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