Checkouts are the new frontline

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that checkouts could become conflict hotspots, as shop workers are set to become the frontline enforcers of tighter laws on the sale of cigarettes and knives.It is calling for greater support from law makers, enforcers and the community, ahead of changes to age restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and knives. From October 1 it will be illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, the same restriction is likely to be introduced for the sale of knives. The current age restriction for both is 16.However, the BRC, which supports both changes, believes that if the new limits are not adequately communicated to customers there may be an increase in threatening behaviour, verbal abuse and violence against shop workers.Its warning coincides with union Usdaw's Respect for Shop workers Day (today), which is designed to promote respect in the retail workplace. BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Retailers are keen to contribute to reducing smoking and knife crime among young people, in the same way that the Challenge 21 initiative has been effective in reducing underage alcohol sales. But retailers will need the support of the police and communities.'The BRC's Annual Crime Survey reveals that almost a quarter of small to medium sized retailers believe it is likely they will lose a member of staff as a result of crime, violence or anti-social behaviour. The BRC has slammed this as unacceptable.Hawkins added: 'The BRC is in discussions with Government on how to ensure the public and shop workers are aware of changes to restricted sales legislation ahead of October.'