The final countdown – how retailers can prepare for a safe reopening
Guest comment: Alasdair Field, CEO of Reveal Media
Shops across the country are set to reopen their doors after the UK’s latest, lengthy lockdown – beginning what we all hope will be a period of recovery and regrowth. But as they prepare for a return to some form of normality, there are lessons to be learned from the last year and from the ‘essential’ retailers who have stayed open throughout the pandemic. Top of the list is the need to protect staff from the increasing threat of confrontation and violence.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) estimates there have been 50,000 incidents of violence against shopworkers since the pandemic began. It’s a worrying statistic, and fears around shopworkers’ safety have led 69 retail leaders to petition the Prime Minister asking for it to become a statutory offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shop worker in England or Wales (following similar legislation in Scotland). In the letter, one retailer cities more than 1,000 violent incidents in a single week after face coverings were made compulsory in stores.
Of course, violence against staff isn’t a new problem; workers in many industries have long reported instances of aggressive behaviour. But the stresses and strains of COVID-19 have brought the issue into sharp focus, and – more optimistically – have spurred a progressive and effective response from retailers and the wider industry.
As with so many issues today, the answer lies in the use of innovative technology. From improved CCTV to location services for lone workers and SOS apps on mobile handsets, recent tech-developments have helped organisations take big strides in their mission to protect public-facing staff. Perhaps the most impactful development has been the advancement of body worn camera technology, which has evolved from bulky equipment worn by a small handful of police officers, to become a true wearable with proven value-add to the retail sector.
Indeed, during the pandemic we have seen 80% rise in new retail customers for our range of body worn cameras and we expect their use to increase even further when lockdown restrictions ease and as non-essential retailers reopen for business.
Cameras provide support, reassurance and confidence to both staff and the public. They’re proven to reduce complaints and increase safety by de-escalating confrontational situations, limiting the use of force, and therefore improving productivity. One large retailer tells us that 9 in 10 potentially aggressive situations are resolved, without confrontation, once the shop worker explains that the customer is going to be filmed.
Furthermore, if an aggressive or violent incident does occur, the use of cameras can be vital for recording evidence, helping the police in their investigations. Cameras like Reveal Media’s range allow footage to be viewed back immediately, without needing a smartphone or a PC – an added benefit when a quick response is needed. And crucially, footage can be used for staff training, to help workers feel prepared and ready to tackle any issues which may arise.
Ultimately, everyone should be able to go to work without the fear of being abused or assaulted, and it’s every retail employer’s responsibility to protect their staff. It’s a sad reflection of the difficult time we’ve all faced that instances of abuse are on the rise, but the positive news is that, with the help of body worn cameras, retailers can now do something about it – and prevent attacks on their teams from happening in the first place.
Reveal has been making award winning, smart, efficient and secure body worn video systems for over a decade. With customers in more than 40 countries, their commitment has been to lead the way through collaboration and innovation.
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