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Annie Hayes

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Rise in violence against shop staff

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Ministers are being urged to make retail crime a higher priority after new figures revealed an increase in threats and acts of violence against shop workers.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said incidents of physical violence against store staff have risen by 50 per cent over the past year, while threats of violence have more than doubled during the same period. Incidents per store also shot up by 18 per cent with verbal abuse episodes showing a six per cent hike.

Supported by the BRC, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) will today present the findings to home secretary Jacqui Smith during a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.

Both organisations are calling on Smith to push for police and local authorities to work together against retail crime and give it the same level of attention as directed toward crime and anti-social behaviour in residential neighbourhoods.

Kevin Hawkins, BRC director general, said: “These figures show the current approach to shop crime is not working. Last year retail employees were subjected to around half a million incidents of abuse or violence in the work place.

“This is not just about a cost to the bottom line. Behind these figures there is individual human pain and distress. It is unacceptable.

“In many areas local authorities and local police are treating retail crime as if it doesn’t matter. The home secretary must use her influence to ensure retailers and shop workers receive the same level of protection where they work as they rightfully expect at home.”

Tracy Low, an USDAW rep and shop floor worker, added: “Incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are far too common. Verbal abuse is a daily experience for many and it can really grind you down. We along with retailers are asking for respect, because we feel very strongly that abuse is not a part of the job.”

2 Responses

  1. Solutions
    There are solutions to the problems encountered by staff in these siutations. The only way of solving the problem is by increasing the percentage of people getting prosecuted for these actions, but with this arises the problem of evidence.

    There are however great products on the market that provide complete solutions to the problems faced by retail workers and other private sector organisations. They can be used to record evidence of verbal abuse which is vital in prosecuting offenders.

    To see an example of one of these products look at the below website:

    http://www.peoplesafe.co.uk

  2. Violence may reflect frustration with poor service
    While physical violence can never be condoned, and customers can be incredibly difficult,I have certainly experienced considerable frustration at times with staff in shops because of the poor service which many provide. They demonstrate a poor level of product knowledge and an attitude which at times seems designed to put the customer off making a purchase. By contrast, staff in other retailers are helpful, konwledgeable and go out of their way to ensure that a satisfied customer leaves the shop with the required purchase (or more!).

    This suggests that in many cases, managers have simply trained their staff inadequately or provided little incentive for the staff to carry out their role as the representatives of the retailer in facing the people, without whom the company would have no revenue! If staff were better trained, including being equipped to deal with difficult customers, the heat might be taken of situations before violence ensues.

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Annie Hayes

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