Retail violence hits highest-ever level

retail violence caught on CCTV

The British Retail Consortium’s latest annual Retail Crime Survey has revealed a spike in violence against staff causing injury, with the number of incidents happening at twice the rate of last year’s survey, the previous record.

Overall, this year’s survey presents a mixed picture. There have been noticeable improvements in some areas, such as fraud, where the cost to retailers has fallen by nearly £30m, because of their significant investment in prevention.

Despite that spending, the total direct financial cost of retail crime has climbed to £700m – an increase of 6% from the previous year. Customer theft remains the largest element, now over £500m per year, a 15% increase on the previous results.

The biggest concern comes from the growth in severe violent incidents against staff. BRC members report that career criminals intentionally use violence and abuse when challenged over stealing. The requirements for retail colleagues to age-check and refuse sales, is also triggering increasing violence and threats.

The rate of these incidents of violence with injury has doubled since the previous year to six per 1000 members of staff.

Commenting on the findings, David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium said: “Violent or abusive behaviour towards shop staff in Scotland is wholly and utterly unacceptable. Retail workers should be able to work free from fear of violence, intimidation or abuse. Worryingly this new data suggests incidents of violence which lead to injury is a growing problem despite retailers investing considerable time and resources in protecting and training their colleagues.

“Many of these more severe incidents and crimes are thought to be linked to purchases of government-licenced and age-restricted products or shoplifting. This is a serious issue and we want to see perpetrators dealt with firmly. We also think Daniel Johnson MSP’s legislative proposal offers an opportunity to revisit the law and ensure it is fit for purpose and that the sentences available to the courts are stiff enough and offer a sufficient deterrent.”

On the overall rise in the cost of retail crime, Lonsdale said: “Theft from shops and retailers is far from being a victimless crime. It hampers retailers’ ability to service their customers and means less money is available for improving the business including staff training, better pay or premises refurbishment.”