John Lewis' boss has warned shoplifting has become an “epidemic” as overrun police officers cannot even respond to offences.
Dame Sharon White, who replaced Charlie Mayfield in heading up the partnership in February 2020, voiced concern about the impact on workers at both John Lewis and Waitrose.
The 56-year-old revealed shoplifting had cost around £1billion as she called for a Royal Commission to ensure a “happy”, “thriving” and “vibrant” high street.
“It’s become an epidemic, sadly,” White said.
“In the last year there have been twice as many offences.
A view of the John Lewis and Partners store in Oxford street, London
“And when I think about our partners, our shop workers, who were lauded as national heroes during the pandemic, it’s not right that they’re having to put up with abuse and attacks.
“I think that collaboration with the police, closer working, is a crucial part of the solution.”
John Lewis Partnership recently agreed with other major retailers to help fund a police crackdown on shoplifting gangs.
Project Pegasus will see forces receive £600,000 to scan faces of thieves using CCTV.
Dame Sharon White is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by The Princess Royal during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle
However, speaking to the BBC, White warned fragmented Government departments could prevent a more cohesive solution to the issue.
The former Treasury civil servant revealed many shoplifters at both John Lewis and Waitrose were “prolific, repeat offenders”.
She added: “Those incidents haven’t always been responded to by the police and that’s why we are reaching out and lots of other retailers are reaching out … I think the collaboration can really take us a step forward.
Police officers detain a man outside McDonald's on Oxford Street, central London on August 9, 2023.PA
“But it has been the case that many of our incidents haven’t been responded to and sometimes those incidents have violent aspects to them.”
White's comments come just weeks after the British Retail Consortium revealed incidents of theft increased by 27 per cent across ten of the largest cities in the United Kingdom.
Budget supermarket chain Iceland is also spending “more than ever” on security, executive chairman Richard Walker confirmed.
Walker wrote on social media: “This is a matter of staff safety: the Government urgently need[s] to review police funding and resources, but also the powers that our security officers have.”
Police officers arrested nine people and issued 34 dispersal orders following an incident on Oxford Street last month amid social media speculation about a planned disorder.