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Shoplifting: Why is it on the rise in the UK?

Shoplifting: Why is it on the rise in the UK?


What is the reason behind the increase in shoplifting in the UK? Why are more people stealing from the shops? How is it affecting the people?

Shoplifting in the UK has reached a point where it’s causing serious concern among retailers, authorities, and citizens. According to the Office for National Statistics, shoplifting offences have increased as compared to previous years. This isn’t just a few pocketed items here and there; it’s an epidemic that has cost retailers almost £1 billion. 

Shoplifters Getting Bolder

The changing face of crime is noticeable. Criminals no longer sneak items secretly into their coats. Instead, they’re swiping whole shelves into bags and calmly walking out. “People aren’t just pinching one bottle and trying to secretly hide it in their coat, they’re just sweeping them all into a bag and walking out,” said Andrew Goodacre, the CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association. This newfound boldness tells us that criminals are finding shoplifting to be a low-risk, high-reward endeavour.

The Spread of Shoplifting: From Big Cities to Quiet Towns

Shoplifting is a problem that’s growing fast, not just in big cities but also in smaller, quieter places. Stuart Rose, the chairman of Asda, has said that shoplifting is almost like it’s not a crime anymore because the police aren’t doing much about it. In the last year alone, theft from stores has gone up by 19% all over the UK, and in the ten biggest cities, it’s even worse with a 27% increase. It’s not just the rough neighbourhoods dealing with this issue; it’s spreading to peaceful areas too.

Shoplifting Offences in England and Wales (2002-2023) and Hotspots in 2022/2023 

In the 2022/2023 reporting year, England and Wales witnessed a notable increase in shoplifting offences, with approximately 342,343 cases recorded by the police. This is up from 275,076 in the previous year, marking a significant uptick that could be a matter of concern for both retailers and law enforcement agencies. The data highlights that shoplifting remains a persistent issue in 2023, despite the fluctuations seen in previous years. It’s essential for retailers and police forces to pay close attention to these rising numbers, as they plan strategies to combat retail theft going forward.

In 2023, some places have more shoplifting than others, and this is important to know for stopping theft. For example, Cleveland and Nottinghamshire have a lot of shoplifting, so they need special plans to deal with it. On the other hand, Surrey doesn’t have much shoplifting, so maybe other places can learn from them. This information helps us see how big the problem is and what we should do to stop it in the future.

Shoplifting Rates and Hotspots in 2022/2023

The left part of this graph shows the shoplifting rates per 1,000 population for selected years, presented as green bars. The right part is a horizontal bar chart that highlights shoplifting hotspots in specific areas for the year 2022/2023.

Shoplifting Offences in England and Wales (2002-2023)

This graph displays the number of shoplifting offences from the year 2002 to 2023. Years impacted by COVID-19 are marked in red, and the data point for 2023 is annotated to show the number of offences (342,343).

Organised Crime and Social Media

These thefts aren’t random acts by desperate individuals. Organised criminal gangs are behind many high-value thefts, swiping expensive items like steaks and alcohol. Interestingly, social media platforms like TikTok are playing a role, too. People share tips on how to shoplift, turning it into a ‘community’ activity of sorts. 

Retailers are Fighting Back

Retailers are responding with various countermeasures. Co-op, for instance, has introduced undercover security guards to patrol aisles. They’ve also started using dummy cases to deter bulk thefts. For example, laundry detergent boxes on display are often empty because so many were getting stolen. Neil Mackay, a hardware store owner in Cambridge, said, “For every product that’s stolen, it takes 12 more items to get back what we’ve lost.” This clearly shows the gravity of the issue

The Impact on Employment

It’s not just about the loss of goods. The rise in shoplifting is alarming. Adam Smith, the managing director of Total Security Services, says that the rise in theft is causing a higher need for security guards. The company, owned by Allied Universal and a parent company to G4S, already has 6,500 guards in the UK and is looking to hire more. The need for guards keeps increasing with the crimes around. More observant and active guards are required to take their part in trying to stop crime. 

The Police are Stepping In, But Is it Enough?

Retailers have taken the initiative to fund a new police operation. This will include a national database of CCTV images that use facial recognition software. However, with the police forces often not prioritising retail crimes, some communities might become no-go areas for local stores. George Weston, CEO of Associated British Foods which owns Primark, said, “We do need the chief constables, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the magistrates to put these problems higher up their priority list.”


On the whole, Shoplifting in the UK is getting worse and it’s a problem for everyone. Shop owners lose money and customers might see higher prices because of it. Even though steps are being taken to stop shoplifting, we need to work together as a community to really fix the problem. The next few months will show if the steps we are taking work or not.

This is serious and we need to watch it closely. If we start thinking shoplifting is not a big deal, what other crimes will start to seem okay? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.


  1. Ottawasun new: https://ottawasun.com/news/world/britains-shoplifting-frenzy-sees-shops-resort-to-dummy-detergent-and-secret-guards
  2. Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/303563/shoplifting-in-england-and-wales-uk-y-on-y/#:~:text=As%20of%202022%2F23%2C%20the,shoplifting%20offences%20per%201%2C000%20population.
  3. The National news: https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/economy/2023/09/15/how-retailers-are-adopting-new-security-measures-to-protect-their-shops/#:~:text=In%20the%20UK%2C%20shoplifting%20offences%20have%20risen%20by%20a%20quarter,retailers%20almost%20%C2%A31%20billion.
  4. Spector: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britain-is-now-a-nation-of-shoplifters/

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