Brexit and Covid to blame for targeted cigarette thefts according to Preston shopkeeper hit three times in a year
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The man – who has asked not to be named – says the strangle on the supply of cheap cigarettes from abroad is fuelling targeted attacks on shops, as stolen goods are then sold on at discounted rates elsewhere.
Only last week his shop in Goosnargh was raided overnight for thousands of pounds of cigarettes.
He said: "The supply chain for cheap cigarettes has gone.
"You used to go abroad and be able to buy cheap cigarettes for £3.50 a pack and give them to your mates or have them for yourself.
"But now because of Brexit, you're only allowed to get one slab (10 packets).
"Then with the pandemic, nobody has been flying anywhere anyway."
He added: “For me, they're going somewhere specific. They're not being sold down the boozer, I think they're going to another shop.
"I believe it's highly organised, and wholesalers are all talking about it too.”
In December, the Post reported how £4,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen after a lookout distracted staff' at Bargain Booze store in Chorley.
>>>Click here to read more about that story.
With a packet of 20 cigarettes costing an average of £11 or £12 a pack, shopkeepers are losing thousands in the raids.
The man said: "Cigarettes are probably our least profitable item - they don't have big margins. But they get people into the shop and I'll make more from the can of Coke I'm selling with the cigarettes."
Even though the losses are insured, it can take months to receive a payout, and premiums are rocketing.
He added: "It also leaves me with no stock, so I have to immediately go out and spend thousands buying more cigarettes".
The man added: "They (the police) always respond, but unless there's some kind of blood, there's not a lot they can do.
"The thieves come in wearing padded jackets, hooded up, gloved up, and you can't see their faces".
He added: "It's being talked a lot in the industry, but I'm not sure how much it's being talked about by the public.
"I want people to know what's going on. I want to know where these cigarettes are going and who is buying them.”
Lancashire Police have been contacted for comment.