The Retail Front Line

Retail Crime is committed on an industrial scale.  Its impact can be felt not only on shop owners but on their staff, their customers and ultimately society in general.  A recent report from the British Retail Consortium (“BRC”) illustrated the shocking increase, frequency and severity of violent attacks suffered by retail shop workers. Industry figures recorded over 42,000 such incidents in 2018, which equates to 115 shop workers being physically attacked every day. This rising tide of violence adds to the pressures that already struggling retailers are subject to, with steps having to be taken to protect and safeguard employees, goods and premises

The Challenges

The BRC report highlighted some of the challenges faced by retail staff many of which go way beyond the job description.  Assaults on shop workers can range from the verbal to the physical, with staff not only having to tackle the constant problem of shoplifters but increasingly having to deal with organised and sophisticated fraudsters and being subjected to aggressive and drunken behaviour.  

Employer’s Responsibility and Preventative Measures

Employers are under a legal duty to take steps to safeguard their staff. This includes providing a suitable working environment.

Part of an employer’s role is to make sure they take steps to prevent physical and/or psychological injury to their employees. In the retail sector in particular, it is essential that employers provide protection from bullying and harassment, in order to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities with regard to personal injury and negligence as well as their legal duty of care.

Having clear policies and procedures in place to make it clear to customers that violence and harassment will not be tolerated and how violence and harassment will be addressed, is one way employers can safeguard both themselves and their employees.  Having an environment where employees are clear about what is unacceptable behaviour and how they can report it, goes some way to ensuring steps have been taken to protect employees.

Making it clear to customers that violent behaviour will not be tolerated, for example having signs up to state that shoplifters/ abusive customers will be reported to the Police is another way an employer can show it is taking reasonable steps to deter potential abusive and criminal behaviour.

Additionally there are measures that businesses can take to reduce crime.  These include better staff training, better use of technology and working together with other retailers, both locally and nationally.  Retailers Against Crime, a group set up in 1997, has recently produced the RAC App that enables members to instantly report issues and problems which can be used to forewarn other retailers.  Clearly retailers are and need to fight back against this growing problem and will be increasingly reliant on their staff and the public in the fight against retail crime.

Contact Rob Pettigrew, Head of Thursfields’ expert Retail and Leisure team on 0121 796 4022 or

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