By Daniel Hunter

Since the recession in 2008, the holiday free-for-all has become considerably bigger and the increased footfall during the festive season is a double edged sword for UK retailers, according to security firm, The Shield Group (no Avengers in sight!).

An influx of customers not only causes sales to skyrocket, but it also leads to overcrowded shop floors, which provides the perfect cover for shop lifters.

Shoplifting is often considered a victimless crime; however research shows this isn’t the case. The economic effects of shoplifting during the Christmas period are massive, with thieves stealing an average of £37.04 per family. In addition to these costs, the staff who work in shops and stores who are threatened or subject to physical violence when faced with thieves can have dire psychological effects.

The majority of retailers will face some form of security threat over Christmas, but it’s the large department stores that are targeted the most, The Shield Group said. This is due to the products most commonly found on the thieves’ wish list, items such as tablets, game consoles, perfume, women's clothing and jewellery being located larger stores. This doesn’t mean smaller shops shouldn't watch out, thieves often approach small vulnerable retailers, typically targeted because they stock alcohol, Christmas decorations and food.

John Roddy, Chief Executive of The Shield Group, said: “Dramatic increases in shoppers creates the potential for serious problems. There are also some consumers who get a thrill out of stealing; they typically pocket a ‘free’ gift during an otherwise legitimate shopping trip.

"However, traditional criminals also get in on the act as shops become so packed that it becomes much harder for security to be aware of issues. Add into this mix a thriving black market, the lure of financial gain is potentially all it takes to motivate the criminally inclined.”

But the threats to retailers are not just external. During this time of year figures consistently show an increase in employee theft. This type of theft alone cost the UK economy over £300m in 2013. This can be pinpointed down to the fact temporary staff are often employed over the Christmas period. Research conducted by First Advantaged shows that significantly more inaccuracies can be found in the CV’s of seasonal workers compared to that of permanent workers. Nearly half of education verifications on seasonal workers uncover discrepancies, while a third of employment history verifications turn up inaccuracies and discrepancies.

Mr Ruddy said: “Security should be every shop owner’s number one priority, not only to ensure that nothing is stolen, but also to guarantee the safety of the customers and staff. By implementing the appropriate security measures and reviewing the temporary staff that are being employed there should be no reason that crime should ruin the Christmas holidays."

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