There has been a worrying increase in violence against retail staff, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
In its latest annual Retail Crime Survey, the BRC said its members reported that career criminals intentionally use violence and abuse when challenged by retail staff over stealing. The increasingly common requirement for retail colleagues to age-check and refuse sales is also triggering a growth in violence and threats.
The rate of these incidents of violence with injury has doubled since the previous year to six per 1,000 members of staff.
Overall, this year’s survey presents a mixed picture, said the BRC.
There have been noticeable improvements in some areas, such as fraud, where the cost to retailers has fallen by nearly £30 million, as a result of their significant investment in prevention.
Despite that spending, the total direct financial cost of retail crime has climbed to £700 million – an increase of six per cent from the previous year.
‘Customer theft’ remains the largest element, now over half-a-billion pounds a year – a 15 per cent increase on the previous results.
The key results of the survey were:
- The total direct cost of retail crime has risen to just over £700 million;
- The rate of reported violence with injury has doubled in a year to six per 1,000. workers. At that rate, across all roles in retail, 13 individuals were injured every day of the year;
- The direct cost of customer theft has grown by £65m, or nearly 15 per cent;
- The direct cost of fraud has reduced by £27m, or just under 15 per cent;
- On average, retailers spent around the same on (non cyber-) crime prevention in 12 weeks as they did in the whole of the previous year;
- Nearly half of respondents have seen an increase in the number of cyber-attacks in the last year.
Commenting on the results, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retail directly employs nearly one in every 10 workers in the UK, and millions more indirectly.
“Retail already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking, and against that backdrop the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact. That is why we are working to build a new model for cooperation around tackling retail crime, and encourage decision-makers throughout the country to apply the priority these issues deserve.
“In particular, the figures on violence present a deeply concerning picture. Attacks on retail workers are intolerable, and our members are completely clear that keeping their staff safe, and providing an environment in which they can work free of fear from threats and violence, is their first priority.”
She added: “Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. But they are now spending record amounts on crime prevention, which is a drag on the economic viability of shops and not infinitely sustainable.
“A new approach is required. Working with our key partners, we at the BRC are seeking to deliver an agreed strategy to halt violence and abuse in its tracks.”