The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) latest crime survey has revealed a disturbing rise in violence and abuse against retail workers in the UK. 

Incidents have soared 50% to 1,300 per day in 2022/23, up from around 870 per day the previous year.  

This escalation persists despite retailers’ substantial investment in crime prevention measures. 

Retailers have spent £1.2bn on crime prevention strategies including CCTV, additional security personnel and body-worn cameras. In 2023 alone, these costs reached £722m.

Despite this investment, the cost of theft to retailers has also risen from £953m to £1.8bn, bringing the total cost of crime to the retail sector to £3.3bn. 

The BRC’s annual crime survey underscores the severe challenges faced by retail employees, with incidents equalling the high levels experienced during the pandemic.  

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Retail workers have been subjected to physical assaults, sexual harassment, racial abuse and threats involving weapons. 

Amidst the rising number of incidents, the survey indicates growing dissatisfaction with the police response, with 60% of respondents rating it as “poor” or “very poor”.  

Retailers are urging the UK government to create a stand-alone offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing retail staff. This would mirror protections already in place in Scotland since 2021. 

Such legislation would not only affirm that this behaviour is unacceptable but also provide the police with better data to understand the issue’s scope and allocate resources accordingly.  

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing. With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues – teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare.

“While the violence can be over in a moment, the victims carry these experiences with them for a lifetime. And we all know the impact does not stop there – it affects their colleagues, their friends, and the family our colleagues go home to. This is a crisis that demands action now.”