Procurement · 5 September 2017

The UK’s business theft hotspots losing stock worth £184m

Uk police vehicles at the scene of a public disturbance
Northamptonshire business owners witnessed a 70 per cent crime increase in three years

Between 2013 and 2016, £184m worth of stock was stolen from under the nose of UK firms, according to new research that reveals the business theft hotspots suffering most from opportunistic crime.

The findings from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, collected by self-storage firm Space Station, showed which areas were seeing the highest number of thefts and which parts of Britain was losing the greatest amount.

Some 20 police constabularies from around Britain provided data to the FOI request, which defined business theft as recorded offences of commercial goods – stealing from shops and stalls, running away without paying, and even theft by an employee.

In the three-year period, some 842,752 instances of business theft contributed to the £184m loss.

Company owners in Greater Manchester were most susceptible to crime, according to the data. A total of 141,887 instances of business theft were recorded by police in the area, while West Yorkshire followed with 110,053 cases.

However, the greatest rise in crime in the same period was found in Northamptonshire. Business theft increased by 70 per cent in just three years. Only Bedfordshire came close, with half the rise at 35 per cent.

Number of recorded business thefts

Greater Manchester 141,887
West Yorkshire 110,053
Derbyshire 96,369
Essex 84,253
Kent 69,048


Although Greater Manchester was rivalled in the number of crimes, the cost of stolen stock to founders far exceeded any other area, reaching over £71m.

Those in Kent also saw a higher value of goods stolen than most, losing almost £41m from 69,000 instances of crime.

Total value of recorded thefts

Greater Manchester £71,384,978.43
Kent £40,758,827.43
West Yorkshire £34,037,465.00
Lancashire £20,430,118.22
Devon and Cornwall £9,267,822.00


Commenting on the findings, Vlatka Lake, marketing manager at Space Station, said the total cost to firms was “shocking” and urged founders to be “extra vigilant”.

“We highly recommend that businesses invest in secure storage solutions and take necessary steps to deter criminals. A well-lit space that is laid out to remove any hidden corners or ‘blindspots’ can deter opportunists,” Lake said.

She added: “Business owners can also look into alternative areas to hold their stock if they are going to be away from the premises for any period of time.”

Unreported crime?

While the £184m already sits high, the true value of stolen stock could be much greater, as research in 2016 from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggested owners of smaller firms are failing to report crimes to the police because they do not believe it would lead to a successful prosecution.

Around a quarter of founders do not report crimes, according to the FSB.

Its research found that 38 per cent of small business owners believe that the police would not be able to catch business criminals or achieve a successful prosecution once a crime had been committed, whilst 26 per cent said that reporting a crime would be too time consuming.

FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “Crime affects all businesses, but it impacts smaller firms the hardest as they cannot absorb the unexpected costs. The fact that businesses are not reporting crimes shows a real breakdown in trust and confidence in the police.”

To help bolster crime prevention at your business, take a look a our three-part property protection series:

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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