Second wave of aggression
Since the start of the corona pandemic, store employees have been confronted with a massive increase in verbal and physical abuse. The British trade association British Retail Consortium is the first to come up with concrete figures, and they speak volumes. For example, a large retailer reports that there are threats to spit or cough up to 150 times a day to infect employees.
The first wave of aggression occurred at the start of the lockdown, between March and April. Then a survey by the Usdaw union showed that no fewer than 61% of British store employees had already been the victim of verbal aggression. 28% were actually threatened and 4% were even physically attacked. Now that the measures (such as the mouth mask obligation) have been tightened up, there is a “second wave of aggression”.
40% more violence in local shops
Neighborhood retailer Co-op registered a record 990 incidents of antisocial behavior and verbal abuse in its 4,000 stores in the week of July 20 to July 26. Retail crime has increased by more than 140% at the start of the lockdown. Convenience stores are indeed particularly affected: 40% of convenience stores already saw an increase in violence during the lockdown.
Yet the problem is widespread: premium chain Waitrose is the only British supermarket chain to see no increase in the number of incidents, according to The Grocer. Yet it is precisely Waitrose that now gives the staff a bodycam in fifty stores. This allows them to scare off potential attackers and film if something happens. Co-op is also testing the body cams in 250 locations.
Most retailers have also hired extra security personnel because of the corona measures. In the UK, unions have also set up assistance programs to provide advice and support to employees. Tesco and Waitrose also offer their own support programs and trauma training. The trade association British Retail Consortium, meanwhile, is pleading with lawmakers to make aggression against store employees a specific crime.