Retail workers in London are most likely to suffer violence and abuse from customers

Ibrahim from Stoke Newington Fruit and Veg with his VISA billboard in brick Lane London. Visa’s Christmas campaign is supporting the British high street for a second year running. Where You Shop Matters Christmas campaign, aims to inspire people to shop locally. Nov 8 2019

Business insurer NFU Mutual is urging consumers to consider their treatment of retail and hospitality staff ahead of Black Friday sales at the end of November.

The British Retail Consortium’s latest Retail Crime Survey announced a 28% rise in the overall cost of retail crime since 2018. Retail violence was the key concern of members, with over 42,000 violent incidents reported in the industry. Non-violent abuse incidents are also on the rise, with reported occurrences reaching 100,000 for the first time.

These alarming trends prompted retail insurer NFU Mutual to explore the impact of retail violence. The consumer research, with more than 2,000 respondents from across the UK, has found that over half of consumers (53%) have witnessed some form of abuse towards retail staff in London over the past three years. Above the UK average of 48%, this rate of incidents is matched only in the East Midlands, where incidents were also at 53%. The abuse ranges from customers belittling or being patronising, cursing and shouting, to physical attacks upon employees.

The NFU Mutual study also found that 74% of consumers would either physically (34%) or verbally (40%) intervene if a member of staff was being physically attacked by another customer. Customers are less likely to intervene if they witness a member of staff being shouted at (62%) or being spoken to rudely (41%).

In the event of physical abuse, men are more likely to intervene than women (79% to 69%) and more than twice as likely to physically intervene (47% to 21%). Women, meanwhile, are more likely to intervene verbally (48% to 32%).

Frank Woods, Retail Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The rise in retail violence is alarming, no-one deserves to be spoken to rudely or feel threatened at work. A lot of the aggression seems to stem from customer’s mistrusting the quality or cost of a product. It’s important for consumers to air any such concerns in a non-abusive way, following a formal complaints procedure wherever possible.

“Consumers may also direct anger towards employees that is unrelated to the transaction. This makes Black Friday a cause for concern – the rush and competition of getting the best deals may strain consumer emotions and put staff at increased risk of abuse. Take care to maintain consideration of staff while you shop.

“While the number of customers choosing to intervene in instances of abuse is admirable, we would warn against getting involved in situations that could escalate. Avoid putting yourself at risk and be cautious, particularly in cases involving of physical violence. If possible, attract the attention of security staff to manage the situation.”