The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey reveals a concerning spike in violence against staff causing injury, with the number of incidents happening at twice the rate of last year’s survey, the previous record.

Overall, this year’s survey presents a mixed picture. There have been noticeable improvements in some areas, such as fraud, where the cost to retailers has fallen by nearly £30 million, as a result of their significant investment in prevention.

Despite that spending, the total direct financial cost of retail crime has climbed to £700 million- an increase of six per cent from the previous year. ‘Customer theft’ remains the largest element, now over £half a billion per year, a 15 per cent increase on the previous results.

The biggest concern comes from the growth in severe violent incidents against staff. BRC members report that career criminals intentionally use violence and abuse when challenged over stealing. The increasingly common requirements for retail colleagues to age-check and refuse sales, is also triggering increasing violence and threats. 

The rate of these incidents of violence with injury has doubled since the previous year to six per 1000 members of staff.

Commenting on the findings, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC said:

“Retail directly employs nearly one in every 10 workers in the UK, and millions more indirectly. Retail already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking, and against that backdrop the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact. That is why we are working to build a new model for co-operation around tackling retail crime, and encourage decision-makers throughout the country to apply the priority these issues deserve.

“In particular, the figures on violence present a deeply concerning picture. Attacks on retail workers are intolerable, and our members are completely clear that keeping their staff safe and providing an environment in which they can work free of fear from threats and violence, is their first priority.

“Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. But they are now spending record amounts on crime prevention, which is a drag on the economic viability of shops and not infinitely sustainable.

“A new approach is required. Working with our key partners, we at the BRC are seeking to deliver an agreed strategy to halt violence and abuse in its tracks.”



The BRC Retail Crime Survey covers the period from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017 and the experiences of 1.1 million employees- accounting for approximately one third of the retail industry).

The key results include that:

  • The total direct cost of retail crime has risen to just over £700 million.
  • The rate of reported violence with injury has doubled in a year to 6 per 1,000. workers. At that rate, across all roles in retail 13 individuals were injured every day of the year.
  • The direct cost of customer theft has grown by £65 million, or nearly 15%.
  • The direct cost of fraud has reduced by £27 million, or just under 15%.
  • On average, retailers spent around the same on (non cyber-) crime prevention in 12 weeks as they did in the whole of the previous year.
  • Nearly half of respondents have seen an increase in the number of cyber-attacks in the last year.


Click here to learn more about our work on retail crime. Here, existing members can login to view the full report. You can download a snapshot of key findings from this page. Our members have access to fuller and deeper analyses of the data. To become a member of the BRC, please email