Retail workers are calling for greater protection in the workplace, with almost one in five (18%) specifically requesting that they want more security guards present on the premises.
This is unsurprising given the extreme hostility directed towards retail workers over the past year, as revealed by two recently released retail crime surveys covering 2021: one from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) and another from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
Combined with the Home Office’s Commercial Victimisation Survey, the reports paint a grim picture of the day to day life of retail workers and the desperate need for security to be improved in retail premises.
Tensions ran high during the pandemic and retail workers suffered for it. USDAW’s 2021 Campaign to End Violence and Abuse Against Retail Workers Survey reported that there was already a sharp rise in abuse directed towards retail workers in the years leading up to the pandemic — then it became much worse.
In 2021, 90% of retail workers reported verbal abuse, 64% received threats of violence and 12% were physically assaulted. This was a slight increase to 2020’s already unacceptable figures of 89% for verbal abuse, 60% for threats and 9% for physical assaults.
Details of the physical assaults are particularly shocking. Participants reported being coughed on and spat at, punched and kicked and attacked with weapons, most commonly knives or needles.
As for causes of this violence, hostile reactions to Covid precautions were the trigger for abuse in 46% of cases, down from 85% in 2020. It is alarming that assaults increased overall despite the expected trigger for such an increase went down, suggesting that hostility to retail workers has become normalised.
Management support for retail workers seems to have improved, with 26% reporting that they wanted more management support, down from 38% in 2020. As for what else could be done to help them, 26% wanted offenders to be banned from the premises and 18% wanted more security staff to be present.
The ACS 2022 Crime Report found that crime cost convenience stores £100m in 2021, averaging out to £2,134 per store or a 9p “crime tax” on every transaction made. Convenience stores suffered almost 1 million incidents of customer theft over the year, almost evenly divided between repeat offenders (53%) and first time offenders (47%).
In response to this crime surge, convenience stores spent £246 million on security in 2021, which is £5,239 per store on average. Most of this investment went towards security guards, followed by CCTV and intruder alarms.
The fact that investment in security exceeded the cost of crime demonstrates that convenience stores are heavily investing now in order to future-proof their stores and prevent losses down the line. Such high spending also reveals how common victimisation of convenience stores has become.
In line with above report from USDAW, 89% of convenience store workers experienced verbal abuse in 2021, though the ACS revealed a further shocking statistic: a quarter of this abuse was hate speech.
Finally, violence was even higher in convenience stores than retailers in general, with 25% reporting violent crime in their premises in 2021.
Not all security is worth the price retailers pay for it, with overworked, underpaid security guards hardly in a position to be effective and vigilant deterrents. At Magenta Security, we have security solutions for retailers of all sizes, from nationwide supermarkets to local stores. Find your best protection by calling 0800 772 3786.
Magenta Security provide award winning security services throughout the UK. We are in the top 5% of ACS approved contractors and were the first security company in Europe to be awarded ISO 14001 for our environmental management systems.
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