Thieves posing as workmen closed off the street outside Streatham Hill garden centre Terra Firma in south London so they could steal Christmas trees worth more than £10,000.
The Christmas crooks took signs from roadworks nearby and set them up yards from the garden centre so motorists would not drive down the street and see the criminals plundering the stock.
A bungling thief stole a Christmas tree from a children's grotto at the Secret Garden store in Denbigh, North Wales. Garden centre owner Denise De Raad blasted the crime as "despicable".
"It's so upsetting to think that someone could stoop so low as to steal from a grotto -- it's awful," she said. "Watching the CCTV footage, you see the man hiding by the rabbits' hutch before he grabs the tree and walks out with it under his arm.
"He also takes a bag containing gifts for the children as well as the decorations I use to make the grotto look nice.
"All the money we make with the grotto is used to pay for a Santa and we put the rest towards improving the animal garden so that the youngsters enjoy it. Now I'll have to go and get another tree so the children won't be disappointed when they come to visit this weekend."
She added: "It's just so sad that someone would even consider such a horrible, despicable act."
And more than 200 Christmas trees have been stolen from an Addlestone garden centre in the middle of the night. The Nordmann Fir trees worth over £12,000 were taken from Bourne Valley Garden Centre between 6.15pm on 23 November and 8.45am the next day.
It is thought that thieves entered round the back of the property, on Woodham Park Road, before breaking two sets of gates with bolt cutters.
Thieves also recently stole 300 Christmas trees from Stewarts GardenLands in Christchurch, Dorset.
B2B Links marketing director Jeremy Davies said: "Christmas trees are particularly easy to sell onto the public in bulk, compared to other plants and trees during the year, which explains why they are such a target.
"For the retailer losing the stock, it isn't just the value of the Christmas trees that is lost, but also the additional sales of associated decorative products such as Christmas lights and decorations if the public are unable to buy their tree due to no stock through theft. Naturally, the consumer will travel to the next garden centre in the vicinity to buy their tree as it is a time-sensitive product.
"Retailers can protect themselves by ensuring their Christmas trees are in a secure area with adequate theft prevention, such as ensuring gates are securely locked, parking the delivery van across the gates, CCTV coverage, lighting at night and external movement alarm sensors.
"Also, the HTA is running a series of Profit Protection Workshops next year to help HTA members identify easy ways to prevent crime. The next one is scheduled in Oxford on 12 January."
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