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International Business Times UK
International Business Times UK
Danielle Summer

Retail Businesses Urge Government To Tackle Increasing 50% Theft And Abuse Cases

Vacancy rates hold steady despite economic pressures (Credit: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to implement tougher measures against attacks on retail workers.

Retail employees are also calling on the government to make assaulting or abusing retail workers a criminal offence, ensuring that all perpetrators are met with arrests, financial punishments, and in some cases, prison sentences.

Since police data for one major retail business in October showed that the authorities failed to respond to 73 per cent of serious shop-floor incidents that were reported, retail staff have also been pushing the government to prioritise retail crime for police observation across the UK.

In November last year, the Co-op announced that it had recorded 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour directed at staff members this year.

In the 3,000 cases that were deemed the most serious, Co-op said that the police had failed to tend to the scene.

In 2024, after a 44 per cent increase in retail crimes last year, the supermarket announced that it was installing locked cabinets for bottles of spirits and 200 secure till kiosks to tackle theft.

Co-op, which has more than 2,000 stores across the UK, also reported that it was investing in AI technology that would be put towards monitoring all self-checkout desks in its supermarkets.

The call for a crack-down on attackers comes after data showed that violence against shop workers has increased by 50 per cent in just 12 months.

According to the most recent British Retail Consortium figures, daily incidents that target retail employees, have increased from 650 cases counted in 2022 to a staggering 1,300 abusive events recorded in 2023.

The type of violence and assault that retail employees are increasingly subject to include sexual harassment, racial abuse, physical assault and threats.

The British Retail Consortium reported that these incidents were on the same level as rates during the pandemic.

"Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing," Helen Dickinson, the CEO of the British Retail Consortium.

"With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues. This is a crisis that demands action now," Dickinson added.

The CEO of the trade association went on to declare that the government's ignorance has allowed attackers to be "given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues".

"No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety," Dickinson argued.

The trade association data also exposed that in 2023, businesses have spent more than £1.1 billion on increased security measures, up from £772 million the previous year.

The safety measures include CCTV, body cameras and additional security personnel.

The cost of theft for retail businesses has also been increasing over the past 12 months, up from £953 million measured in 2022 to a staggering £1.8 billion counted in 2023.

The hike in financial loss to retail theft makes the total cost of crime for retailers £3.3 billion.

After speaking to more than 1,600 staff members who work for well-known retailers like Tesco, H&M and the Co-op, Retail Trust found that a staggering 90 per cent of retail workers have experienced customer abuse.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne told reporters that the levels of retail crimes being reported were "unprecedented".

Bourne, who is also the Leader for Business Crime at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, continued to note: "Every day, retail staff are facing the consequences of shoplifters' brazen behaviour and that's why I have supported the call for a specific offence of assault on a shop worker."

"Our courts need to work more efficiently, and shoplifters need to be deterred from re-offending," she urged.

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