The picture of what is happening in terms of crime in the retail sector is not encouraging. The British Retail Consortium’s 2019 Retail Crime Survey reveals that for the fourth year in a row there’s been growth in the direct cost of crime with the figure estimated to be just under £900 million. That’s an increase of 28% (not inflation- adjusted) on the previous year. With experts believing there’s likely to be a significant amount of loss due to crime that’s not being recorded or reported, the total cost could actually be a lot more. And while crime types such as customer theft, fraud and cyber-crime are cited as priorities, one of the most worrying trends is the increase in the overall number of violent incidents against retail industry employees.

The use of violence is posing a growing threat

Would it shock you to know that on average 115 employees are violently attacked every day? That figure doesn’t even include the ones who are threatened but not physically attacked – although as the report acknowledges, the trauma of that experience can cause serious harm too. It’s not simply the number of incidents that’s so horrifying but also the nature of them.  Weapons, including knives and syringes, are being used more frequently and the threat they pose is something that has to be addressed urgently. These findings are echoed in other surveys. Retail union Usdaw recently published the results of its 2018 survey based on responses from over 6000 retail employees. It also found threats, abuse and violent incidents against retail workers were becoming a growing problem. Its survey revealed nearly two-thirds of shop workers had experienced verbal abuse during 2018, with over 40% having being threatened with physical violence by a customer. Its research suggests that on average over 280 employees are being assaulted every day. It also revealed that the top triggers for incidents are shop theft, enforcing the law when selling age-restricted goods and refusing to sell alcohol.

Share your views on what can be done to create a safer environment for retail workers

These statistics are clearly a major cause for concern. At the moment, the Home Office has a consultation underway to get more information on the scale of the problem. While it’s open to anyone who wishes to contribute, it is asking for responses primarily from retailers, retail employees, trade associations and unions. The consultation, which runs until the 28th June, aims to get to grips with the full extent of the issue of violence and abuse towards shop staff and get more insights into steps already being taken by retailers to prevent it. It’s aiming to identify any measures which could be used to help prevent crime, and to gather views on the police response and whether existing legislation is effective enough in helping to tackle the problem. The consultation is an opportunity to look at the training, guidance and support on offer to workers and it’s also hoped it will highlight examples of best practice that could be shared. The retail sector is rightly putting a great deal of effort into ensuring the safety of everyone that works within it. If you work in retail and would benefit from some professional advice about making your premises more secure, please do feel free to contact us. We can explain more about the role of security systems such as CCTV in helping protect your premises and employees. You might also like to keep an eye out for progress on the ‘Shop Safe Alliance’. It’s an industry-led initiative due to launch soon that aims to help retailers combine resources and knowledge to address the symptoms of crime but also get involved within their communities to support work that deals with the social causes behind it.