More than eight in 10 retailers have experienced crime in the last six months, with farm shops among those frequently targeted, NFU Mutual has warned.

Farm shop owners are being warned to stay vigilant as the rural insurer's research shows that shopkeepers are facing what they describe as unprecedented levels of crime.

In the last six months, just over eight in ten (83%) have experienced crime and more than two-thirds say retail crime has increased in 2023.

Over a quarter of respondents (27%) said the impact on their own and their staff’s mental health is their most pressing concern.

And almost one in five (19%) live in fear of organised gangs targeting their shops, as seen recently in attacks on farm shops across the UK.

The research comes a year after an urgent security alert was issued to farm shop owners following a spate of organised burglaries across North West England and the West Midlands in the summer of 2022.

Farming specialist at NFU Mutual, David Harrison, said farm shops had been targeted in the past due to their remote locations,

He said: “Our study shows that retailers of all sizes are unfortunately struggling as incidents of theft rocket in our shops, and we would urge farm shop owners to stay vigilant to protect their stock, staff, and premises.

“We have seen huge efforts taken from retailers on this which is a good step forward as it is crucial they feel protected and supported should the worst happen.

“It is important for owners to take all the necessary preventative steps and keep the cash held on site to a minimum, while NFU Mutual has also put together a security checklist in response to our most recent study.”

This year alone, 82% of retailers have had to take security measures to protect their businesses from crime with the increasing use of bodycams (17%) and panic alarms (21%).

Farm shop owners are now being advised to remain vigilant to prevent further cases from hitting the industry.

Farm Retail Association chair, Emma Mosey, said the issue of crime and security was a pressing concern for owners of farm shops.

"Often, as owner operators, our members live on the business site, so the threat of break-ins is exacerbated by concerns about their own personal safety and proximity to their businesses.

“Break-ins and robberies have a lasting impact on the mental health of owners and their teams, as well as the short-term impact of loss of stock or theft.

"At our recent council meeting, the issue of security was raised among members as a key concern, particularly after the spate of robberies in 2022.”

How can I improve farm shop security?

NFU Mutual has issued advice for farm shop owners to boost security:

• Make sure passive infrared (PIR) sensors – a device used to detect motion – are not concealed by shelving reducing their full operating angle

• Ensure that the detectors have not been tampered with if they are in an area of public access

• Consider installing internal door sensors (not just external perimeter doors and windows) and ensure that movement detectors are duplicated where possible if all entry points cannot be protected

• Reduce your cash on-site by banking more frequently – also consider any on-site vending machines and removing the cash cassettes each night

• Check the amount insured in your safe and make sure your insurers recognise your safe

• Change your alarm code regularly and deactivate any older or lost fobs

• If possible, limit the number of high value items on display and secure remaining stock within a robust, lockable store

• Use customer service as a tool to deter thieves – greeting them lets them know they have been acknowledged and will deter them as they have been identified

• Make sure store layouts are organised and tidy, placing high-value or items which are more desirable for thieves in monitorable areas

• Regular stocktaking helps identify which items are being targeted