Charity shops have lost more than £15 million to shoplifters in the past year, a study has shown.
A poll of UK charities has found that 80 per cent had seen an increase in thefts of publicly-donated items.
Instances of abuse aimed at staff and volunteers had also increased, according to over half of those polled.
The vast majority of charities – 85 per cent – said they do not report the thefts. Respondents that did seek help from police said officers only turned up to investigate one in five cases.
The poll, by the Charity Retail Association, which represents 9,000 charity shops, also found that over the past year two-thirds of stores have had to install new security measures to combat thieves – diverting an extra £4 million away from good causes, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Charity shops ‘urgently need support’
“The loss of these funds through shoplifting can have a direct impact on the ability of charities to provide or expand these services,” said Robin Osterley, chief executive of the association, “which is why seeing so many shops affected and an increase in shoplifting over the past year is so concerning”.
“It is something that charity shops urgently need support with, whether it is increased support from the police or campaigning at a national level to stop the abuse that is faced by retail staff and volunteers.
“Being predominantly brick-and-mortar stores with large volumes of stock, they are often a target for shoplifting, as well as abuse of staff and volunteers.
“Among some criminals there seems to be a perception that this is a “victimless crime”, as most of the goods stolen have been donated by the public. However, the effect on the morale of staff and volunteers can be devastating, as well as the loss of potential income, so this is far from the case.”
The news comes after the Co-op said it expected to lose more than £70 million to shoplifters this year as retailers face record levels of theft.
Shirine Khoury-Haq, the retailer’s chief executive, said Co-op had already lost £33 million to shoplifting and fraud during the first six months of the year.
However, she said: “The real cost is to the physical and mental safety of our store colleagues and those stores where they have to face these issues every single day, and it should not be part of their job.”
The British Retail Consortium estimates shoplifting will cost retailers around £1 billion this year.