• 424 incidents of violence or abuse each day, up 9%
  • Spending on crime prevention increases to £1.2 billion 
  • £1 billion cost to retailers from crime

Today, the British Retail Consortium has revealed the results of its annual Retail Crime Survey, highlighting the dramatic impact of violence and abuse against retail workers and the huge cost of crime to the retail industry. 

The survey shows that incidents of violence and abuse have risen to 424 each day, up 9% from the previous year. The increased use of weapons, particularly knives, remains a worrying trend.

Despite retailers spending a record £1.2 billion on crime prevention, the losses resulting from retail crime climbed to £1.0 billion, which includes over £770 million from customer theft. This makes a total cost from crime and crime prevention of £2.2 billion, an increase of 16% from the previous year (£1.9 billion). 

In February 2020, the Prime Minister said that “we should not tolerate crimes of violence against shop workers”. Yet 70% of retailers surveyed reported that the police response to these incidents was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. 

The BRC is lobbying Parliament to introduce legislation that would make assaults on retail workers a specific criminal offence. This is combined with calls for police forces across the UK to prioritise retail crime and improve their response to incidents. Money raised from retail crime is often used by criminal gangs to fund other criminal activities. 

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“Over 400 retail workers are subjected to violence or abuse in the workplace every day. These are not just statistics; these are real people who work hard for millions of customers every day. From abuse, to threats, to violence, those affected carry these experiences with them for a lifetime. 

“The Government must help put an end to the scourge of retail crime. This means a stronger police response to criminal incidents, and new legislation to introduce tougher sentences for those who assault retail workers. No one should have to go to work fearing violence or threats.”

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary of Usdaw:
“Life on the shop floor can be tough for many shopworkers, and there is still a lot to do to protect them. We launched our Freedom from Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff.

“It is high time for the Government to act by providing proper penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone law that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and, most importantly, criminals.”

John Campion, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner:
“No one should have to feel worried about going to work. The increased violence and abuse these retail workers are facing should not be tolerated and more needs to be done."

“I hope to see the Government respond positively to the calls for this crime to be recognised as a specific criminal offence. On a local level, I will continue to work with the police and partners to ensure the appropriate measures and resources are in place to prevent incidents like this from happening.”

Dr. Emmeline Taylor, Director of Research, Department of Sociology at City, University of London:
“Record levels of theft, record levels of expenditure on crime control measures, and indications that the severity and frequency of violence against shop workers continues to increase. Government action is urgently needed to reverse the impact that ten years of austerity has had on the retail industry and our communities.”

“No level of violence is acceptable and particularly against people who are just going about their job. Yet again the industry reports a shocking rate of incidents of violence against shop workers.”

Download the BRC’s Retail Crime Survey here.