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Join forces to tackle retail crime head-on

Struggling to succeed during a recession, you could be forgiven for thinking there is no love lost between the UK’s clothing retailers in the cut-throat fashion world. However, there is one area where collaboration between retailers is all the rage – dealing with retail crime.

Last year, £4bn worth of stock was lost, pointing to a creeping rise in internal theft and in the number of criminal gangs hitting stores. Retail crime is serious, organised and low on the police agenda. So fashion retailers are sharing best practice and data, not only to curtail the activities of a determined minority, but to make sure they have ‘oven-ready’ cases for the police.

The Loss Prevention Fashion Forum comprises the heads of loss prevention for the high street’s main clothing retailers, including Aurora Fashions, Gap, Harrods, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Monsoon. It meets quarterly around the UK, although from 2010 it will meet six times a year.

The last forum invited a retailer to share a story that crystallises the need for collaboration. During 35 armed robberies over two years, more than 100 staff were physically attacked. Some suffered long-term trauma and left the business. Many still receive counselling. Arrests were only made when one failed armed robbery resulted in a gang member breaking into an elderly person’s home and holding her hostage while trying to make a getaway. Only then did the police force in question deploy its serious crime unit. 

The retailer’s point? Not only must police forces work together, but retail businesses must do the same to share data and best practice in order to get business crime onto the police and Home Office radar.

  • Richard Lawrance is head of audit at Monsoon and chairman of the Fashion Forum

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