Health and Safety

Retail Under Fire - Violence and Abuse Against Staff Soars

Darryl Horn, Wednesday, 14 February 2024 • 2 min read

Retail Under Fire - Violence and Abuse Against Staff Soars

Retail workers are facing an alarming surge in violence and abuse, with incidents rising by a staggering 50% in the past year. This shocking statistic, revealed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), paints a grim picture of the challenges faced by those on the frontlines of customer service.

"It's simply unacceptable that retail staff are being subjected to such levels of abuse and violence," said Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC. "From verbal threats and aggression to physical assaults, these incidents have no place in our society."

The Numbers Speak for Themselves:

  • 1,300: Daily incidents of violence and abuse against retail staff in the UK (BRC, 2023).
  • £1.8 billion: Cost of shoplifting, abuse, and violence to retailers in the UK (BRC, 2023).
  • 60%: Of retail staff describe police response to incidents as "poor" or "very poor" (BRC, 2023).

Beyond the Numbers:

Behind these statistics are real people experiencing fear, stress, and trauma. A recent survey by The Co-op found that almost half of its staff had experienced abuse or threats in the past year, with many reporting feeling unsafe and unsupported.

"I've been verbally abused, sworn at, and even threatened with physical violence," shared Sarah, a cashier at a major supermarket chain. "It's incredibly stressful and I'm constantly worried about my safety."

Protecting Our Retail Heroes:

Retailers have a responsibility to protect their staff and create a safe working environment. Here are some key actions they can take:

  • Implement zero-tolerance policies: Make it clear that violence and abuse will not be tolerated, with clear consequences for perpetrators.
  • Invest in training: Equip staff with de-escalation techniques and conflict resolution skills to handle difficult situations safely.
  • Improve security: Increase security presence, install CCTV cameras, and provide panic buttons for staff.
  • Support staff wellbeing: Offer counselling services and employee assistance programs to help staff cope with the emotional impact of abuse.
  • Advocate for change: Lobby for tougher legislation and stricter enforcement to deter perpetrators and hold them accountable.

This article was first published on 14/2/24.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.

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