Published On: Thu, Apr 4th, 2024
Business | 4,203 views

Co-op counts the cost of crime, as criminals cause £70m of losses | City & Business | Finance

Co-op says it suffered a record year for theft, abuse and violence against its staff, up 44 percent to around 1,000 incidents a day at its stores, costing it £70millon.

Speaking at the mutual conglomerate’s annual results, chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq pleaded with the Government and police to take retail crime seriously. She said that every day, on average four of its staff are attacked while working and that its stores are being plagued by “persistent, prolific” thieves.

To make matters worse, Co-op says that in 80 percent of cases where its security has detained thieves and people who have abused or been violent towards its workers, the police do not bother turning up to arrest them.

Koury-Haq said that retail crime had reached epidemic proportions and added: “Being a small store operator, it makes us more vulnerable to retail crime and people (who commit crimes) can get in and out more easily. We need society, the Government and police to pay attention.”

Co-op and other retailers want the Government to make assaulting, threatening or abusing shop staff a standalone criminal offence in England and Wales, as it is in Scotland. It says that in Scotland, the police reaction rate to violent or abusive incidents at its stores is at 60 percent since Holyrood introduced the law in 2021. In England, the rate is just 10 percent.

For the 53 weeks to January 6, the convenience stores to funerals to wholesaling to insurance to legal services conglomerate made a pre-tax profit of £28million. The year prior, it made a £268million profit thanks to the sale of its petrol forecourts to Asda, which produced a one-off gain of £319million. Its revenues declined two percent to £11.2billion.

At the same time, Co-op cut its net debt from £322million to £82million last year. Khoury-Haq said that having slashed its debt by 90 percent over the last two years, returned to profitability and overhauled its IT, retail logistics and supply chain infrastructure, Co-op is “back in control of its destiny” and can switch its focus from turnaround to growth.

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