• BRC survey shows 7% rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers, now at 455 each day
  • Only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse result in prosecution
  • Whopping £2.5 billion cost of crime to retailers, including £935m in customer theft

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today published its 2021 Retail Crime Survey, which highlights the scale of violence and abuse faced by retail staff. The survey shows there were 455 incidents of violence or abuse each day in 2019/20, up 7% from 2018/19. The findings also show that the total cost to retailers of crime and crime prevention was £2.5 billion, an increase of 14% on the previous year (£2.2 billion).

The BRC is calling for a statutory offence for assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker. The Scottish Parliament has already taken decisive action to better protect retail workers through Daniel Johnson MSP’s Shopworker Protection Bill. This means retail staff are better protected in Dumfries than they are thirty miles south in Carlisle. Similar legislation must be introduced in the rest of the UK and we urge 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, deter future perpetrators, and ensure shopworkers feel safer at work. This is combined with calls for police forces across the UK to prioritise retail crime and improve their response to incidents.

The total cost of crime has soared over the last three years, from £0.7bn in 2016/17 to £1.3bn in 2019/20. The most significant part of this was customer theft, which cost companies £935m. This rise comes despite retailers continuing to spend record sums of £1.2 billion on crime prevention.

In September 2020, the BRC launched its Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge, calling on politicians to stand with retail workers to support legislation for better protection. The pledge has so far been signed by over 55 MPs from all major parties. This came after the Prime Minister told Parliament in 2020, that “we should not tolerate crimes of violence against shopworkers”.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“Will retail workers in England and Wales ever receive the protection they deserve? 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. 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.”