• BRC survey shows violence and abuse against retail workers tripled over the pandemic to over 1,300 incidents per day

  • 60% of respondents class police response to incidents as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’

  • Total cost of crime was £1.5 billion

Retail workers were subjected to a huge rise in violence and abuse over the pandemic, with incidents almost tripling from 455 per day in 2019/20 to 1,301 in 2020/21, according to the latest crime survey published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). This spike was concentrated in a significantly reduced number of stores and retail operations as much of the industry was closed throughout the year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The survey highlights the unacceptable scale of violence and abuse faced by retail workers during the pandemic. Of the 1,301 incidents every single day, 125 were violent. This spike in incidents occurred while retail workers were on the frontline of the pandemic, ensuring people were able to buy food and other essentials throughout the biggest public health crisis of our time.

While incidents of violence and abuse soared, only 4% of incidents resulted in a prosecution, findings which may explain why three-in-five respondents described the police response to incidents as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

Earlier this year, after extensive lobbying by the BRC and its members, the UK Government introduced an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which created a statutory aggravating factor to assaults committed against those “providing a public service or performing a public duty”. Similarly, Scotland introduced a specific offence for violence and abuse against retail workers last year.

 The BRC will now work with Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales to raise awareness of the new aggravated offence and to advocate for retail crime having a higher priority in local policing strategies. Retailers also need to play their part by ensuring that more of these incidents are reported, so that the police have a true picture of the violence and abuse faced by retail workers.  

 Alongside the huge emotional and physical impact on people, retail crime also bears a huge financial cost. The total cost of retail crime stood at £1.5 billion, with £663 million lost to customer theft and £715 million spent on crime prevention. This spending, while critical to reduce losses and protect colleagues, nonetheless contributes to higher prices for customers by pushing up retailers’ operating costs.