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Curbing retail staff abuse as UK and US cases soar

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Retail

Since the pandemic, violence against retail staff is at an all time high, with the UK and US seeing a surge in cases.

In America, from 2018 to 2020, assaults reported to the F.B.I. by law enforcement agencies rose 42 percent, according to the New York Times. In the UK, abuse against retail staff was already at record high with over 400 incidents per day, but data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Crime Survey 2022 Report revealed that incidents of verbal and physical abuse targeting retail workers nearly tripled in number year on year during the 12 months ended 31 March 2021 to 1,300 every day.

The #shopkind campaign, an initiave from the UK’s biggest retailers, the Home Office and Crimestoppers, aims to counter this, urging the public to be kinder to shop staff, emphasizing that we should all treat workers and other customers with respect, kindness and gratitude.

Verbal abuse has a detrimental effect on retail workers

According to the report, verbal abuse can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of retail workers. 100 percent of retailers in the BRC’s report said they saw violence as a top threat.

In the US, a bid to reduce incarceration rates have made punishments more lenient for retail theft, where a 1,000 dollar theft threshold in many states for shoplifting sets a bar for priorities. Thefts of lesser value may go unpunished or not be prioritised.

“Violence and abuse towards shop workers is utterly despicable and unacceptable, everyone has the right to feel safe at work. As the daughter of shopkeepers, I fully support ShopKind, a reminder to customers to consider their behaviour towards shop staff, and I would encourage all retailers to fully support it," said Priti Patel, Home Secretary, UK Government.

In the US, the mantra "the customer is always right" is embedded into the American retail experience. According to Business Insider this has created a sense of entitlement among shoppers that has led to aggression and even violence toward retail workers.

There should be no place in retail for abuse and violence. For now, government intervention may be the only solution to ending curbing abuse.

British Retail Consortium
Retail abuse