Fiona Malone_Joshua James

Retailers have voiced their concerns in response to the government’s decision to reject proposed standalone penalties for shop worker abuse. 

It comes after the British Retail Consortium released its annual crime survey last week, which revealed that retail workers faced 1,300 cases of violence and abuse every day in 2023. 

Joshua James of Fresh & Proper store in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, has called on the government to consider the impact of rising crime on staff and urged harsher penalties for offenders.

Speaking to Convenience Store, Joshua expressed concern over the government’s neglect of staff safety and its focus only on theft figures. “Every store is dealing with retail crime. I think the main priority that the government is forgetting is about the safety of the staff. We are seeing all these videos of staff being abused or assaulted and the government is just seeing the figures of what’s being stolen, not realising some of those are aggravated and it’s upsetting for staff members,” he said.

“We have implemented various procedures, including technology, and have extended our efforts to the local community to make people aware that we have protocols in place if there are incidents of shoplifting or organised crime. This makes it easier for us to report such incidents to the police.”

He explained that although these procedures in place may deter criminals from his store, the sad truth is that they are just passing the problem onto another shop: “It’s not going away, and we know those people are still out there”.

Joshua emphasised that the main thing the government can focus on is introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker. “If it goes through, it would be a turning point for everything because right now they’re just getting away with it.”

Meanwhile, Pembrokeshire retailer Fiona Malone of Tenby Stores and Post Office was disappointed by the government’s decision to dismiss making violence against retail workers a standalone offence. “It is very disappointing that the government has taken this line. It is unlikely it would have had a big impact by itself but there needs to be a raft of support measures for shops, victims and even the criminals to prevent the crime in the first place,” she said.

Fiona, who recently discovered that her store was losing nearly £26,000 a year due to shoplifting, suggested that the government should provide grants to retailers that cannot afford CCTV or any other crime prevention methods. “I was recently on Talk TV on the Vanessa Feltz show and the other retailer I was on with had nothing to help them prevent crime. It’s important to recognise that a lot of convenience shops are the hub of the community and this could be lost.”