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When you are a small and independent retailer, getting ahead in business is difficult enough. The huge amount of competition you are up against includes massive chain stores who can beat you into submission with lower prices. You are under a lot more pressure to pay the rent and rates, too, and a slow month could leave you struggling to pay your dues. And, of course, there is your worst enemy to consider - the shoplifters and thieves that target businesses like yours on a regular basis.

How much do shoplifters steal?

Shoplifting and theft cause a huge amount of problems for independent retailers, who rely on a healthy supply of cash flow for virtually all areas of their business. In the UK alone, shoplifting crime is on the rise. It increased to a total value of £613 million in 2015, and new figures are due out soon, with police reports suggesting it could go way higher. Strangely, the number of shoplifters has decreased, but this in itself is a worrying sign. It means that shoplifters are raising their game, targeting higher ticket items, and are becoming more sophisticated.

What are the new techniques?

There is plenty of evidence that specialist equipment is being used on a more regular basis now than ever before. Foil-lined bags which prevent security tags setting off alarms are more than common, and custom-built de-taggers are easy to conceal and use. It all points to much more organisation than we have seen before - perhaps criminals stealing to order rather than the chances and risk takers of the past.

What are the impacts?

It’s not just stock and takings that suffer - abuse and violence against shop staff are also on the rise. So, while the financial costs can be great for retailers, there is a genuine concern about the human costs, too.

How can independent retailers prevent shoplifting?

Independent store owners are clearly wary of throwing money at security, which can be costly. But if they want to protect themselves adequately from the threat of shoplifters and thieves, it’s a necessity. Security cameras, staff, and access to the local loss prevention network can all help deter criminals, and robust checks on the till for large and unusual payments can help you tackle fraudulent transactions. Secure cashing up procedures can help, too. Retailers can use intelligent cash handling system to count up the takings at the end of the day in no time at all. Then it's just a case of getting that money to the bank - as quickly as possible, and by using different routes every day.

Where are the police?

The growing cost of crime against retailers is an inevitable offshoot of the tightening of police budgets. In simple terms, the police have to make difficult choices with regards to their priorities - and other offences take precedence over protecting small and independent retailers. However, it’s still worth retailers contacting their local force to raise awareness of any particular problems. There will still be officers assigned to help; it’s just that they have a much wider area to cover. Ultimately, though, working in partnership with the police and local loss prevention network should help retailers protect their businesses.