This year, the annual Black Friday flurry coincides with a cost of living crisis that is putting many under financial strain.
And it’s retail staff, who often feel the brunt of this. They are the ones who will face customers used to firing a complaint about long waits or unavailability online, or thieves looking to empty tills.
When polling over 1,000 retail workers, Retail Trust found that 90% of them encountered abuse weekly.
Meanwhile, The British Retail Consortium revealed in their Crime Survey 2022 report that instances of verbal and physical abuse towards retail staff have almost tripled year on year, reaching 1,300 every day by 31 March 2021.
How is violence defined?
Verbal abuse and unpredictable behaviours of shoplifters and drug users are the main causes of violence in the retail industry.
The HSE defines violence as :
‘any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted by a member of the public in circumstances arising out of the course of his/her employment.’
Know the law
Tougher penalties have come into force under the amended Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which has been in effect since 28 June. It now classes a common assault on anyone providing a public service, including those working in retail, as an aggravated offence, bringing with it harder sentencing.
Common assault describes an instance where there is little to no injury, such as if someone were grabbed, pushed, kicked or spat at. However, there doesn’t need to be physical contact to be classed as common assault, which means threatening behaviour which causes someone to fear violence also comes under this category.
By making your staff aware that any verbal or physical abuse from customers is recognised by law, the local police will be able to build a bigger picture of neighbourhood issues and repeat offenders.
By linking in with other stores in your area, you can gather and share information that may be mutually useful. Along with reporting incidents to the police, businesses can work together to improve crime rates and support smaller retailers.
You can start by looking at which trade associations are operating in your area, while Indie Retail lists associations by trade.
Involve your staff
Frequent threats of violence to your team can cause low morale, high absenteeism and high staff turnover. These combined consequences can cause a strain on your remaining workforce, leading to more lone working, and more time spend recruiting and training someone else.
A reporting system is crucial if you’re to understand whether any of your stores have a problem, and making this anonymous can encourage otherwise wary workers to speak up. Analysing this data can help you identify what the problem is, and you can categorise any recorded incidents with details of:
- Experience level of the staff member involved
- Details of the assailant and whether they’ve been in similar situations before
By involving your staff while discussing policy implementation and reporting, you are showing them that you’re taking the matter seriously. They in turn will have a stronger commitment and can offer their insight and ideas based on their valuable experience.
Specific training can help your team prepare for any incidents, such as how to manage confrontations with interpersonal skills. Any lone workers should be made aware of specific risks and should be given emergency contact information or a personal safety device.
The technology to help
While some physical changes, such as lighting or wider, higher counters can be made to your store, other, such as moving location might be more difficult.
Our lone workers solutions range from apps to devices, and can be monitored or self monitored, giving you and your staff extra confidence that they’re protected. Get in touch to find out more.