The British Retail Consortium is calling on the government to take action over the rising levels of crime against retail workers.

Co-op bodycam

Retailers such as the Co-op have brought in body-worn cameras for store staff

The BRC’s latest crime survey found the amount of violence and abuse against retail workers reached 1,300 incidents per day between September 1, 2022, and August 31, 2023 – up from 870 per day the year before.

The annual survey looks at the scale of violence and abuse inflicted on retail staff, which includes racial abuse, physical assault, sexual harassment and threats with weapons.

The survey shows the huge increase in violence and abuse in retail has reached levels seen during the pandemic, at nearly half a million incidents a year.

The surge in retail crime comes despite retailers investing in crime prevention. Over the 2022/23 period, retailers spent £1.2bn on precautions such as CCTV, body-worn cameras and more security personnel, up from spending £722m the previous year.

The cost of theft to retailers increased to £1.8bn from £953m the year before, meaning the overall cost of crime to retailers was double the previous year at £3.3bn.

Sixty per cent of respondents described the police response to incidents as “poor” or “very poor”, up from 44% last year.

The BRC and retailers are urging the government to introduce a standalone offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker to send a “clear message” that these crimes will not be tolerated.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing. With over 1,300 incidents every day, the government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues.

“Teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare. And while the violence can be over in a moment, the victims carry these experiences with them for a lifetime. 

“And we all know the impact does not stop there – it affects their colleagues, friends, and the family our colleagues go home to. This is a crisis that demands action now.

“Criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues. No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. 

“The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hard-working colleagues south of the border be offered less protection? It is vital that government takes action – introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker.”