Retail sector calls on Government to act on violence and abuse

Leading retail bodies have written to the Government asking for more to be done to tackle widespread violence and abuse against shop workers.

The letter, signed by retailers and groups including the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Asda, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, WH Smith and Boots, calls for “meaningful change that will reduce levels of violence and abuse”.

There were an estimated 10,000 incidents of violence and abuse across the sector last year, with the single biggest trigger being shop theft, according to the ACS crime report.

A survey by shopworkers’ union Usdaw suggests nearly two-thirds of shopworkers experienced verbal abuse and 40% were threatened by a customer over the last year while the British Retail Consortium’s most recent retail crime survey found that 115 workers are attacked every day.

The letter recommends tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers, change to the out-of-court system such as fixed penalty notices which signatories say are failing to have an impact on reoffending, and a full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in the retail sector.

The letter comes as the Home Office closes a 12-week call for evidence on the issue.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers and staff that have been subjected to abuse often give up on reporting crimes to the police because nothing is done, and that needs to change.

“We need fundamental reform of the justice system to deter criminals from committing lower-level offences, more consistent police response to show retailers that they take incidents of violence and abuse seriously, and ultimately tougher sentences to tackle reoffending rates when the worst does happen. No-one should have to go to work fearing abuse as part of their everyday life.”

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “These are not victimless crimes: they impact upon the skilled, passionate, committed individuals who make the industry so vibrant, as well as their families and loved ones.

“That is why so many of our members and aligned groups have come together to ask the Government to do more to tackle this problem, and do it now.”