Retailers hit by another rise in shoplifting and assaults on shop workers

Theft and assault at a Co-op store

North West police forces have reported an increase in shoplifting, part of a persistent upward trend since the pandemic, which continued with a 37% increase and has now risen to the highest level in 20 years.

The Office for National Statistics released figures showing a 20% increase in shoplifting incidents across the North West and by constabulary area as follows:

  • Cheshire +33%
  • Cumbria +8%
  • Greater Manchester +15%
  • Lancashire +28%
  • Merseyside +16%

Shop workers union Usdaw’s said their 2023 annual survey of over 5,500 shopworkers found that 60% had suffered incidents of violence, threats and abuse that were triggered by shoplifting and armed robbery.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers. This 20% increase in shoplifting across the North West is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning.

“Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in the stores and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. Our latest survey results show that 7 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. 60% of respondents said theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for these incidents.

Last year reported that 40% of businesses in Greater Manchester think the police “are not bothered” by low level crime such as shoplifting, according to new research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

In a piece of research carried out by FSB in Greater Manchester over autumn, the data shows low levels of confidence in GMP to take business crime seriously.

Fewer than 10% of survey respondents believe police in GM take all business crimes seriously; and over 40% were of the opinion GMP were not bothered by low level business crime, such as shoplifting. A further 19% believed it would take a lot of their time to report an incident to police, while 31% had the opinion that business crime was at the back of the queue compared to other types of crime.

At the last Mayor’s Question Time in December 2022, chief constable Stephen Watson said his force would investigate all crimes and pushed back at the suggestion they didn’t care. also reported that CityCo chief executive Vaughan Allen, along with the City Council’s deputy leader and the Greater Manchester Police, have called on businesses to report crime, contrary to claims that the police aren’t interested.