The shoplifting epidemic is largely blamed on organized gangs, but some retail bosses also blame middle-class customers for fueling the wave of store thefts.
Theft from shops in England and Wales soared by almost a third last year to its highest level in two decades, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
As prices soared and household budgets were squeezed, more than 402,000 shoplifting crimes were recorded in the year to September, compared to 304,000 the year before.
Shoplifting epidemic: Some UK retail bosses say middle-class shoppers are fueling a wave of store thefts
The total cost of this crime is almost £1 billion a year. Some major retailers have had to pay police to upload the faces of convicted shoplifters into a national database. But a number of retail bosses say self-checkouts, introduced to cut costs, encourage even well-off customers to tread lightly.
Lance Forman, of smoked salmon producer H Forman & Son, said some customers were stealing his company’s expensive specialties. “I don’t think people always steal because they’re desperate,” he said. “If it’s possible to steal it, they might just be tempted.” “If you leave your front door open, people will come and steal. It’s a sad fact of life. Retailers are responsible.
His comments echo those of Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman, who told LBC radio: “With the reduction in service you get in many stores, a lot of people think it hasn’t been scanned correctly, or it is very difficult to scan these documents. things are over and I shop here all the time. It is not my fault. It’s me who owes it.
Asda chairman Lord Stuart Rose said he believed the problem was now so widespread that shoplifting had essentially been “decriminalised”.
Rose says the increase in retail crime is due to affluent shoppers helping themselves to smaller, more expensive items at self-checkout counters.
Police chiefs have been criticized for their apparent lack of action in tackling the looting that has ravaged stores.
A spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium said: “Unfortunately, the lack of an effective police response has left many criminals – including organized crime gangs – feeling that they can shoplift in complete impunity.”