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Tackling increasing rates of abuse toward retail staff

21 May 2024

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Violence toward shop workers in the UK has almost doubled compared with pre-pandemic times, says a new report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC). According to the BRC’s Crime Survey, more than 850 attacks a day were recorded between 2021 and 2022.

The rise in abusive behaviour toward retail staff is being linked to the cost-of-living crisis, which is pushing more people into financial insecurity, high stress and theft.

With over 3300,000 employees having experienced abuse in the past year, it’s evident more needs to be done to protect retail staff from violence and drive down abusive behaviour.

Here we lay out four key measures to address mounting violence toward shop workers.

Zero Tolerance

Crucially, a zero-tolerance approach should be taken toward abusive customers, with strict consequences for those who behave aggressively. All staff should be informed of the protocol for dealing with violent or hostile shoppers, such as activating a staff safety alarm or calling the police.

Invest in quality staff attack systems

Should a member of the public become aggressive, it is vital shop workers can instantly call for help – wherever they are on the shop floor. Personal security alarms that staff can attach to their uniform securely and discreetly allow employees to immediately summon help should they need it.

Pinpoint’s Personal Infrared Transmitters (PITs) do just this, enabling staff to quickly alert others of the need for assistance. Simply pressing a button on a PIT activates the Pinpoint System, emitting signals to Advanced Receiver Units in the ceiling of the building. The information is relayed to communication devices, highlighting the exact location of the alarm for a response team to act on. As a result, employees feel safer at work, confident that they can quickly summon assistance if needed.

Crucially, the Pinpoint System can be activated without alerting the perpetrator, allowing responders to act efficiently to de-escalate the situation.


CCTV acts as a deterrent for abusive behaviour, with reports exhibiting a reduction in the number of serious violent incidents where it has been introduced. Body-worn cameras have also gained popularity in major retailers, serving as a means to both document and prevent aggression toward shop staff.

Footage from both CCTV and BWC are valuable reporting tools, providing evidence of offences committed and insight into incidents that can be used as a training tool for staff.

In addition to staff safety systems, Pinpoint provides CCTV equipment for high-risk work settings where visual monitoring is important. The integrated system delivers the optimum security solution, whereby raising a Pinpoint alarm causes the CCTV to record and store footage of an incident for later examination.

De-escalation tactics

De-escalation training seeks to instal retail workers with the skills and knowledge to calm agitated or frustrated shoppers. Techniques include listening to the individual, empathising with their concerns, and moving them to another, quiet space. The aim is to mitigate a potentially dangerous situation, thereby preventing aggressive behaviour from taking place.

With violence toward retail workers on the rise, it has never been more important to instal robust security systems that protect employees and deter abusive behaviour. Combined, the measures laid out above reduce attacks, prevent harm to staff, and give workers the confidence to carry out their daily tasks without the threat of assault.

Does your workplace require an efficient, reliable staff safety system? Get in touch with us to discuss your security needs. 

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