- BRC survey shows high levels of retail violence and abuse, at over 850 incidents per day
- Retail colleagues are being physically assaulted and threatened with weapons
- Nearly a billion lost to customer theft, with eight million incidents in 2021/22
Violence and abuse against people working in retail has almost doubled on pre-pandemic levels. The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Crime Survey reveal that incidents, including racial and sexual abuse, physical assault, and threats with weapons, rose from the pre-Covid high of over 450 per day in 2019/20, to over 850 per day in 2021/22.
Alongside the huge emotional and physical impact on people, retail crime bears a huge financial cost. The survey revealed the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76 billion in 2021/22. £953 million was lost to customer theft, with eight million incidents of theft over the year. Retailers also spent £715 million on crime prevention in 2021/22. While some costs are critical in protecting colleagues, they also contribute to higher prices for customers by pushing up retailers’ operating costs.
In 2022, following an extensive campaign, the BRC and others were successful in securing an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act with the aim to better protect people working in retail. However, the Home Office currently does not track the use of this amendment, making it impossible to understand if the changes are having an impact.
The disturbing scale of violence and abuse faced by retail workers every single day is why last summer 100 retail CEOs wrote to 41 Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, calling them to commit to making retail crime a priority in local policing strategies.
Police support is vital. The BRC will continue to work with Police and Crime Commissioners across the country to advocate for retail crime to have a higher priority and more resourcing in local policing strategies.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
The pandemic has normalised appalling levels of violent and abusive behaviour against retail workers. While a confrontation may be over in minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime. To make the UK a safer place to work the Home Office must improve its reporting around the amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and the police must prioritise adequately resourcing retail crime. Surely everyone deserves the right to go to work without fear.