BRC reports huge rise in crime

Survey finds a 50% increase in levels of retail abuse

Daniel Johnson MSP worked to bring the bill into power in Scotland in 2021.
Daniel Johnson MSP worked to bring the Protection of Workers Act into power in Scotland in 2021.

VIOLENCE and abuse against retail workers soared across the UK in the last year, a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has found.

The industry body said that the number of incidents per day rose to 1,300 in 2022/23, rising up from almost 870 per day the year before.

This rise comes despite the investments many retailers have made in crime prevention such CCTV, security personnel and body-worn cameras, which has cost the industry £1.2billion, according to BRC calculations.

And these expenses come on top of the cost of thefts to the retail channel, which the BRC said rose to £1.8billion this year, up from £953million. This means there has been a total cost to retailers of £3.3billion over the course of the 2022/23 financial year.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said: “Despite record spending by businesses, retail crime continues to skyrocket.

“While abusing or assaulting a shopworker in Scotland is now a distinct offence, it’s clear more needs to be done by the police and justice system to ensure those attacking retail workers are caught and face the consequences.

“The abuse faced far too often by Scottish shop workers is completely unacceptable and it should be an absolute priority for the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to get on top of this issue.

“A far greater level of prioritisation must be given to retail crime by Ministers and in the next Scottish Policing Plan.”

And it’s the belief for many in the nicotine industry that this will only worsen in time to come. JTI has called on governmental policymakers to reconsider any incoming restrictions – including the disposable vape ban and generational tobacco ban – given these incidents come about when an age-restricted sale comes into play like for nicotine products or alcohol.

A spokesperson for JTI said: “In the case of the ‘Generational Tobacco Ban’ currently proposed by the Government, retailers will legally be forced to decline sales, not to children as is now the case, but to fully-grown adults of increasing age, if they cannot present satisfactory ID.

“Retailers will once again be put in the firing line if they are left to enforce this untested and unproven legislation, where failure to carry out the check is a criminal offence for the employee but not for the perpetrator of an under-age sale.

“Undoubtedly this will lead to a further increase in threatening behaviour towards the retail community.”

While Scotland already has its Protections of Workers Act, introduced to parliament by Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, retail workers south of the border still do not have the same levels of protection afforded to them by Westminster.

As a result, retailers across England have been calling on the government to introduce a standalone offence on assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker, falling in line with protections already afforded to staff in Scottish stores.

Despite these protections, however, Scottish retailers still report a rampant rise in crime across their stores lately, adding pressure to many staff members.

Speaking out on a report from 1919 Magazine, which found there are nearly 60 assaults on front-line workers daily in Scotland, Pete Cheema, chief executive at the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, said: “Scottish retailers are being overwhelmed by the shocking rise in retail crime in recent years.

“This information comes to light amid a torrent of widespread shop theft, some of which involves organised crime groups, reports of staff resigning because they fear for their safety, and suspected losses worth millions of pounds to local businesses.

“Crime against retailers is a clear and present threat and current economic conditions, alongside budgetary strains on the police, have caused the situation to worsen further.”