As British Retail Consortium figures show violence and abuse against retail staff has grown by 40%, Drapers asks whether retailers are doing enough to protect their workers and customers.
“Abuse in any form is unacceptable and more must be done to ensure it is never accepted,” Dickinson said. “There is much to do to improve and organise forms of collaboration between the UK retail industry and its partners and raise standards of security and policing across the county.”
“It’s difficult to say why shop staff are at risk – it might just be because they are in a position of authority,” says Mark Watson, a partner at business law firm Fox Williams. “But from a legal perspective, retailers have an obligation to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe place of work and plainly a place of work where staff might experience abuse is not safe.
“If you’re placing employees at risk and you know there’s a risk, you are potentially liable if things go amiss. Retailers should be looking to give really clear instructions and training on what employees should be doing if, for example, someone were to walk into store with a weapon. An employer hasn’t done that could be a risk if an employee tries to act the hero and is injured in the process.”
Sports Direct was accused of sweeping a security breach under the carpet, by reportedly failing to tell its workforce their personal details may have been hacked. Sports Direct did not respond to Drapers’ requests for comment.
Despite the growing concerns around staff safety, cyber-attacks emerged as the crime most retailers (50%) the BRC surveyed felt would be the biggest threat to their business over the next two years. This was a dramatic swing from 2015, when just 14% of retailers said cyber-attacks would be the biggest threat to their businesses and 81% felt theft by customers was a bigger concern.
BrandAlley chief executive Rob Feldmann stresses that retailers need to be more on guard against cyber-crime than ever before: “When you look at some of businesses that have been hacked, you have to be very, very careful. We always talk about the steps we’ve taken to keep customers safe from any kind of hacking at every board meeting. It’s crucial for your reputation – if you can’t keep customer data safe, it’s the end.
“There’s a lot we do to keep customers safe. For example: we don’t hold any bank details and work with [Paypal payment service] Braintree, which deals with companies like Air BnB; we employ a third party to try and break into the website every three months; and we have intrusion detectors, so we know when or if someone’s tried to hack in.”
The BRC has developed and will publish a Cyber Security Toolkit for Retailers in March. It is also calling for more help for retailers to combat the growing risk of retail crime. Given the increasing attractiveness of customer details stored by retailers to criminals, it argues that the industry now needs extra support from the authorities to help fight cyber-attacks, as well as stronger response from police forces to violence against staff.
Retail crime by numbers
- £660m direct financial cost of retail crime
- 3.6 million retail crime offences
- 51 incidents of violence and abuse per 1,000 staff
- 40% increase in violence and abuse against retail staff
Source: British Retail Consortium