Heads of 86 major retailers find common ground in demanding action on shoplifting crisis, with theft and crime costing the sector nearly £1.8bn
- Signatories include Tesco boss Ken Murphy and Sainsbury’s chief Simon Roberts
- They want assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker a specific crime
Britain’s top store bosses are today demanding urgent action by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to curb the tsunami of shoplifting, looting and aggression bringing chaos to the UK’s high streets.
The heads of 86 major retailers – normally bitter rivals – have come together in an unprecedented act of co-operation and signed up to a letter telling the Government it must move fast to tackle ‘unacceptable levels’ of violence and abuse against shop workers.
Signatories include some of the biggest names in British retail, such as Tesco boss Ken Murphy, Sainsbury’s chief Simon Roberts, Boots supremo Sebastian James and Co-op chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq.
They are urging the Government to make assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker a specific crime.
‘This standalone offence would send an important signal that our colleagues will receive better protection in law and act as a deterrent to would-be offenders. This action should be taken without delay,’ the letter says.
The heads of 86 major retailers – normally bitter rivals – have come together in an unprecedented act of co-operation and signed up to a letter telling the Government it must move fast to tackle ‘unacceptable levels’ of violence and abuse against shop workers
Britain’s top store bosses are today demanding urgent action by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to curb the tsunami of shoplifting, looting and aggression bringing chaos to the UK’s high streets
The bosses are also asking police to take offences more seriously and respond quicker to incidents.
Support for the letter has also come from those running luxury shops, such as Burberry chairman Gerry Murphy, and , at the cheaper end of the scale, the head of Greggs bakery chain Roisin Currie and Superdrug chief Peter Macnab.
Nish Kankiwala, CEO of middle-class stalwart the John Lewis Partnership, has signed up, as has Marks & Spencer’s Stuart Machin.
The industry-wide effort follows a campaign by this newspaper to crack down on retail crime. The Mail on Sunday wants the police, Crown Prosecution Service and courts to be tougher on shoplifters. We are also calling for a change in the law to make abuse or violence towards shop staff a specific offence. Our campaign has been backed by politicians across the political divide, including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and former Home Secretary Priti Patel.
‘It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse,’ said British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson.
The rise in shoplifting and assaults on staff has forced many large retailers to take drastic action.
Tesco’s Ken Murphy said last month that all the supermarket chain’s frontline workers will be offered body cameras following a surge in violent attacks. He said more than 200 of its staff are victims of serious physical assaults each month.
His initiative follows similar moves to fit staff with bodycams from the Co-op and John Lewis Partnership, owner of Waitrose.
A crime survey by the BRC this year showed that incidents of violence and abuse towards retail staff had almost doubled from pre-pandemic levels, to 867 incidents every day. The BRC estimated the scale of thefts and crime had cost the sector nearly £1.8 billion, despite retailers spending more than £700 million on crime prevention.
One in eight shop bosses no longer report shoplifting incidents because they say police are uninterested, while criminal gangs consider stores soft targets and systematically strip them of goods.
Legal action is also declining. In the year to June 2022, 21,279 people were prosecuted for shoplifting in England and Wales, compared with 80,352 a decade ago.
‘Make abuse of retail staff a specific crime’
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