Abuse against retail staff grew by a “disturbing” amount last year, according to the annual retail crime survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The survey, released last week, shows that verbal abuse rose by 35% compared with 2003, and physical violence was also up by 14%. This has been a continuing trend since 2000, the ADT-sponsored survey found.
Retailers spent £710m on crime prevention in their stores throughout 2004. Over a five-year period, the sector has spent £3.6bn.
BRC director general, Kevin Hawkins, said: “The most disturbing figure is the growing trend of verbal and physical violence experienced by retailers.
“Retail crime is not victimless; it leaves scars not only on business viability and retail workers, but also on the community, with the significant costs of prevention often passed on to all threads of society.”
Hawkins warned that the culture of under-reporting retail crime meant the figures may well “only be the tip of the iceberg”.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw general secretary, John Hannett, said: “These figures are very disturbing as it seems a small section of criminals and irresponsible consumers think shopworkers can be treated as physical and verbal punchbags.
“Violent offenders must get the message that shops have a zero-tolerance policy for violence and we will continue to work with retailers, police, local authorities and consumer groups to make sure every store is as secure as possible,” Hannett added.
The BRC recently launched the Stop Crime Against Retail campaign, calling for police to modify the system of reporting to encourage victims to report crimes.
The campaign also presses for the government to work with the sector to raise public awareness of the real impact of crime and violence against retail.
Overall, the BRC survey showed that the impact of crime and crime prevention cost the retail sector £2.1bn in 2004 – a £100m increase since 2003.