Retail Crime in 2023: Tips for Protecting Your Business

The British Retail Consortium reported that shoplifting in the UK rose by 7% in 2022, resulting in an estimated loss of £3.4 billion for retailers. With this trend expected to continue in 2023, it’s important that retailers take proactive measures to secure inventory and assets. In order to help you do this, today we’ll explore what’s driving the increase in retail crime, what this might mean for 2023 and, finally, provide actionable tips on how you can better protect your business against financial loss.

Why Has The Frequency Of Shoplifting Increased?

Asked about key drivers behind the increase in retail shoplifting in the UK Joanna Jagiello, spokesperson at The Barcode Warehouse says: “It’s difficult to say exactly, but economic impacts and pressures on household bills would play their part in the increase in shoplifting for sure. I would say this is especially the case in food retail.”

The Spiralling Cost Of Food And Beverage

Food and non-alcoholic drink inflation rose by a dizzying 16.5% between November 2021 and November 2022; the highest increase since 1977 according to data from the ONS. And it’s not luxury items that are climbing in cost. The basic cost of bread, pasta and cereal, a staple for many, have seen the biggest leaps in cost of 1.9% in a single month. This spells difficulty, especially for households on a low income who spend a larger proportion of their household budget on food and non-alcoholic drink.

Top Trends In Retail Crime And How Retailers Can Protect Themselves

As the world continues to evolve and become more advanced, so too does the technology that criminals use to commit retail crimes. Businesses need to be prepared for the latest trends in criminal activity and take steps to protect their assets and inventory. Increased use of technology is one of the most significant trends emerging in 2023.

Retail Crime

The Rise Of Self Checkout Theft

Shoplifters are using more advanced technology to commit their crimes. This can even include using a retailer’s own technology against them. One example of this is the increase in Scan and Go thefts. A recent study revealed that one in three Brits have stolen items at the self checkout. This equates to almost £500m worth of food, toiletries and baby formula stolen through the misuse of self-checkouts. When asked, 69% of respondents said they shoplifted due to the cost of living crisis, 43% because the barcode wouldn’t scan, 31% due to forgetting to scan, 9% because they forget their money and 7% reported that the thrill of stealing drove them to shoplift.

How Can Retailers Protect Themselves?

When asked how retailers can protect themselves against the rising abuse of technology in retail crimes, Jo adds: “stock management solutions and RFID are extremely relevant in the prevention of theft. When it comes to technology investment, we always look at the immediate and long term value it will give; technology investment should rarely be seen as a short term fix. It wouldn’t be doing its job if it were.” In addition:

Improved Stock Management

One clever example of undetectable security is through the use of RFID stock management solutions, with some excellent examples of how this can be put into practise. “With one of our customers, we worked together to establish each individual garment of clothing with its own unique barcode. This would allow the retailer to see if the item has not been sold or scanned through the tills. When a shoplifter tried to return goods, without proof of purchase receipts, till staff would be able to identify if the garment was ever sold in the first place! This is easily achieved on a small or large scale with the right technology, device and printing solutions.”

Regular Scanner Maintenance And Programming

Given that the second most popular reason for self-checkout theft was due to barcodes not scanning, it would also be worth reviewing your current labelling and scanning set up. While little might be able to be done at retailer level for issues such as suboptimal barcode placement or inconsistently printed barcodes, your manufacturing and warehousing facilities can help. Proactively reaching out to these suppliers to discuss how you can improve barcode readability such as increased colour contrast, sharpness and placement could help to dramatically reduce the losses you are experiencing on the shop floor.

Beyond this, reviewing your scanner settings could also help. Retailers should check and review the programming of their scanners on a regular basis. It may be that the number of acceptable digits in the data field is causing your barcodes to not scan. As an example, Code 39 and ITF use 13 digits, not 12!

In addition to this, the placement of the barcode scanner might be causing issues. The orientation, angle, and focal distance are all vitally important to successful scanning. Choosing a reader with autofocus, or making the swap from scanners to imagers, which use cameras to read the images rather than the reflective laser signal are also appropriate solutions that would dramatically reduce interference leading to scanner failure.

Increased CCTV and Surveillance

When discussing surveillance and CCTV Jo says: “security-based solutions like CCTV which should be a given in the retail environment, big or small.” As mentioned in Talk Retails article 7 Ways to Deter Theft in Your Retail Store, CCTV is the number one rated method of reducing theft. Security cameras at the entrance and exit of your store offers the best way of tracking who is crossing onto your premises as well as a clear view of their faces, which is important if you need to identify them later for any legal reasons.

Placing cameras around aisles where your high value items are placed also act as a deterrent. However, in their 2022 crime survey report, the British Retail Consortium urged retailers to be mindful of the GDPR and data-sharing legalities, stating that “it is important to understand the potential for legally shared information and use of CCTV to assist in crime prevention and detection.”

Final Thoughts

While shoplifting is on the rise, and there are many factors that are outside of retailers control, what we can focus on to reduce financial loss is:

  • Improving stock management processes
  • Regularly maintaining your scanning equipment
  • Reviewing your CCTV implementation and coverage

We hope that the information shared today helps you to identify, prevent and stop theft from your retail premises.