See Horticulture Week's Crime map which charts horticultural and garden centre thefts and crime by geographical location.
At least 35,000 retail staff have suffered from physical or verbal attacks, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) crime survey 2012.
In response it has launched Tackling Violence Against Staff, which contains details of initiatives such as conflict management training for employees.
The BRC aims to reduce incidents of violence against staff and challenge the perception that abuse is part of the job by collating and disseminating best practice guidance on how to reduce incidents of violence or abuse against staff and work. It is endorsed by shop workers' union Usdaw, working in tandem with its Freedom from Fear campaign.
Garden centres have also had their share of thefts. Blackmoor Nurseries had 50 "irreplaceable" new fruit trees destined for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show worth £2,000 stolen from its nursery near Liss in Hampshire on 20 May, says nursery manager Jon Munday. The dwarf peach, nectarine, apricot, apple, pear, plum and cherry trees were destined for a special feature at the show.
The most usual items reported stolen are seeds, secateurs, candles, Hozelock products and gloves. But elsewhere, thieves stole £150 of ice cream from Tarn Road Nursery in Cumbria, while a rare Jardine's parrot was taken from Matlock Garden Centre in June. Woodcote Green Garden Centre in Surrey even had a £500 electric elf stolen from a charity Christmas display last December. The thieves were caught on CCTV.
Recent court cases also indicate the scale of the problem. A worker at Swindon Garden Centre clung to a Range Rover to stop a man taking plants. A judge imposed an eight month jail term, suspended for two years after the man pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. He was also required to pay £1,500 compensation.
A Christmas tree thief who targeted Notcutts Garden Centre in Pembury, Kent, was sent to prison for 18 months after he was caught on CCTV.
Armitages garden centres owner Will Armitage says thieves "don't always get away with it" after a local man admitted the burglary of a computer and other items in court at its Pennine Garden Centre in Shelley, West Yorkshire. Staff were alerted to the burglary by the alarm system.
Protection systems are available, such as GuardCam from ESP. The complete all-in-one, PIR floodlight, camera, speaker and DVR system, once switched on, will detect an intruder, floodlight the area, initiate a video recording directly to an internal SD card and if selected, an audible warning can be delivered.
RRP is £150.
The cost of customer theft rose by 31 per cent last year, according to the British Retail Consortium. In response, HTA is running workshops targeted to the needs of garden retailers, focusing on:
- Identifying high risk products.
- How to prevent customer theft.
- How to spot shoplifters.
- Customer service role in deterring shoplifting.
- Legal steps to follow.
- How to prevent price swapping.
- Best practices and guidelines.
The workshops are led by HTA security adviser Jeremy Davies and Peter Compton of HTA security partner B2B Links.
Davies says: "The message of the workshops is to prevent and deter rather than stop thieves. Theft is a cost to your business." For example, he says, Poplars in Essex and Webbs in Worcestershire had begun tagging items.
Industry attendees have endorsed the workshops. At Sunnybank Garden Centre, manager Amanda Lynas said: "We gained valuable insight and have now been able to take a proactive role in protecting our business." Palmers Garden Centre managing director Caroline Palmer adds: "There were some good ideas, not all requiring money, and we reviewed several procedures as a result."
Workshops scheduled are:
10 July, Poplars Garden Centre, Bedfordshire
12 July, Langlands Garden Centre, Yorkshire
2 October, Bellis Brothers, Wrexham
4 October, Squires Garden Centre, Middlesex
7 November, Torwood Garden Centre, Stirlingshire
For free advice, call the HTA security advice line on 07889 719690.
Crime 2010/11 By number of incidents
Customer theft 84.8%
Other 2.9% (includes robbery, burglary, employee theft, criminal damage).