Violence against retail staff up 7%, say BRC

There were 455 incidents of violence or abuse towards retail staff each day during the 2019/20 financial year, a 7 per cent increase from 2018/19, according to statistics from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

This figure includes 114 incidents of violence each day, which means that over a 9-hour shopping day there would be one incident of abuse every minute, and an incident of violence every five minutes.

The total cost to retailers of crime and crime prevention was £2.5 billion according to the BRC, an increase of 14 per cent – £300 million - on the previous year.

This includes crime prevention spending of £1.2 billion and direct losses to crime of £1.3 billion, of which customer theft makes up £935 million.

However, the research found only 6 per cent of incidents of violence and abuse result in prosecution, and only 3 per cent of these incidents were treated as aggravated by courts.

In addition, the research found just under 40 per cent of retailer’s now regard cyberattacks as a top three issue.

Since 2017 none of the respondents surveyed reported a decrease in attacks and over the last year 54 per cent reported an increase.

Over 10 per cent of the budget for crime prevention among UK retailers - £160 million- was spent on cyber security.

The BRC is calling for assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker to become a statutory offence.

The trade association highlighted how it believes The Scottish Parliament has already acted to better protect retail workers through Daniel Johnson MSP’s Shopworker Protection Bill.

The BRC said this means retail staff are better protected in Dumfries, in the south of Scotland, than they are thirty miles south in Carlisle, one of the most northern cities in England.

The trade consortium said similar legislation must be introduced in the rest of the UK and urged the Bill Committee who are currently scrutinising the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to support changes proposed by shadow policing minister, Sarah Jones MP.

A new statutory offence would toughen sentences for those who are violent or abusive towards shopworkers, which would deter future perpetrators according to the BRC, and ensure shopworkers feel safer at work.

“Will retail workers in England and Wales ever receive the protection they deserve?” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium. “Despite clear evidence showing the escalation of violence and abuse against retail workers, the Government has time and time again chosen not to act.”

“These are not mere statistics, those affected are our parents, our partners and our children, all who needlessly suffer, just for doing their job. Many incidents arise as staff carry out their legal duties, including age verification and more recently, implementing Covid safety measures.”

“And, despite retailers spending enormous sums on crime prevention, the situation is only getting worse.”

She added: “Scotland has sent a clear message that the rise in violence and abuse must end, and the rest of the UK must follow their lead.”

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