TRUST ISSUES: Retail crime is much more than a financial issue
By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust
With Co-op last month revealing that crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour has increased by over a third in their shops, this once again pushes a serious issue for our industry into the spotlight
Troubling news like this follows findings from the BRC’s crime survey in March and the Retail Trust’s ‘respect retail’ campaign at the end of last year. And it highlights that rising levels of retail crime and inappropriate behaviour are not only affecting businesses but endangering the physical and mental health of retail staff.
At the Retail Trust, we speak to people every day who are being shouted at, spat on, threatened and physically assaulted at work. A leading fashion retailer who we interviewed for this year’s health of retail report revealed that one of their employees has been held up at gunpoint in the last year while others have been forced to set up weekly taskforces to deal with the frequency of verbal, physical and sexual assaults.
From food to fashion, incidents are increasing at an alarming rate and retailers clearly need robust measures to protect the safety of their employees. The Retail Trust works with more than 200 businesses to improve the wellbeing of their people and some of the measures we recommend include visible security and clear in-store signage, as well as recording any incidents of crime or harassment to identify patterns and improve how they are managed.
Meanwhile, more training is also essential to equip staff with de-escalation techniques and other tools to help them handle increasingly challenging situations. They need to know where boundaries lie when it comes to dealing with difficult customers, when it’s right to engage, and when it’s best to step back from a potentially dangerous situation.
And importantly, they also need the reassurance that their employers are standing firmly behind them with the understanding that any kind of abuse should never be seen as ‘just part of the job’.
This begins with good leadership, commitment to tackling harassment and ensuring that their policies are both effective and supportive. At the same time, it’s equally important for colleagues to look out for one another, with signs that a situation may be escalating, such as raised voices or aggressive body language, triggering a collective response. And managers should always check in with their team before the end of every shift to ensure no one goes home without having had a debrief and feeling supported.
Retail crime is much more than a financial challenge; it’s a societal issue that is affecting real people, their wellbeing, and the very reputation of our industry as a great place to build a career. And addressing it requires a collaborative effort between retailers, the police, and the community at large.
Last year, the Retail Trust launched the ‘respect retail’ campaign to help address this troubling trend and do more to protect the safety and wellbeing of our retail colleagues. With more than 70 businesses signed up so far, we’d urge even more of you to pledge your support and take advantage of the resources we offer. Everyone deserves to work in a safe environment and together, we want to make sure that this is a reality for the retail industry.