Staff Commit More Than Third of UK Retail Theft, Report Finds

Staff Commit More Than Third of UK Retail Theft, Report Finds
Shoppers carry bags on Oxford Street in London, UK, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. The Office for National Statistics are due to release the latest UK retail sales figures on Friday. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

British retailers are stepping up efforts to tackle theft, but a key source of the problem may be right under their own noses: staff.

About 40% of retail theft is committed by employees in warehouses, in transit and in stores, according to a report by research consultancy Retail Economics and security technology firm Thruvision. The total value of items stolen by staff will amount to about £3 billion ($3.7 billion) this year alone.

Shoplifting has become a growing issue for retailers during the cost-of-living crisis with many increasing the use of body-worn cameras to protect their staff from thieves who can become aggressive when confronted. Companies including Tesco Plc, J Sainsbury Plc and Next Plc have grouped together with the police to tackle the issue.

Read More: Retailers Demand Crackdown to Stop Wave of Shoplifting

Theft by staff isn’t new, but it’s seldom discussed publicly by retailers. Most of the theft by employees takes place in sprawling warehouses. Around two thirds of retailers interviewed for the report believe that over the past decade the opportunity for crime in distribution centers has accelerated.

Just as the high cost of living in the UK has led to more theft by shoppers and organized gangs, so too has it placed a burden on retail staff. Two thirds of those surveyed said that the increase in employee theft was due to the burden of higher costs. The report suggests that over the past year staff have shifted to stealing smaller necessities like groceries and clothing.

Another issue is the tight labor market, with retailers pointing to their increased dependence on temporary staff.


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  • Dick Cullingworth says:

    Of course working staff are upset and want more, their increases are kept low, and continually nowadays so in their faces, so many billionaires, number increasing, and so many “Want to a millionaire” type shows playing around with significant money around and they get so little of the pie! Excessive homes and luxury cars, yachts, while they had cannot even afford a decent holiday.

  • Andy Smart says:

    I think we assume this is policy and that effective policing, never mind the wages and working conditions that might attract some loyalty, would both cost more than £3B.

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