Kieran Mackie – Combatting the Rise of Retail Worker Abuse

In his first blog for Infologue.com, Kieran Mackie, MD at Amulet, discusses the recent reports detailing a rise in abuse towards retail workers, outlines different types of retail settings and explores how each setting presents a different challenge to security officers.

I was struck by the alarming rise in violence and abuse faced by shop workers across the UK, as revealed in a recent report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC). According to the BRC survey, incidents of abuse soared to an average of 1,300 per day last year—a staggering 50% increase from 2022. The stories shared by retail staff in a recent BBC report paint a grim picture of verbal abuse, shoplifting, racial slurs, sexual harassment, and even physical assault. These figures are not just numbers; they represent real people facing real dangers in their workplace.

Such statistics are deeply troubling, and they underscore the importance of a security presence in the retail sector. Front-line staff in retail positions deserve to work in safe and supportive environments, free from fear and intimidation. Yet, with the current rise in incidents, it’s evident that more proactive steps must be taken to safeguard their wellbeing.

Security officers play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of retail spaces. Whether it’s an open retail environment (such as an out-of-town retail park), an enclosed shopping centre, or a high-end boutique, the level of threat varies significantly across different settings. We recognise the importance of tailoring security measures to the specific risks faced by each type of retail setting.

Enclosed retail spaces, especially those connected to local transport links, attract a lot of “low-level” incidents, such as anti-social behaviour, vandalism and opportunistic theft. Our security officers undergo rigorous training in safeguarding techniques to effectively handle such situations while maintaining a welcoming environment for shoppers.

In open retail environments, the threat level may not be as high compared to urban areas. However, this doesn’t mean that security concerns can be disregarded. In such settings, security officers serve as a visible deterrent, reassuring both customers and retail staff of their safety.

On the other end of the spectrum, luxury retail establishments such as jewellers may experience fewer incidents overall, but the repercussions of any security breach can be significantly more impactful. In these settings, security officers are not just guardians of the premises but also integral components of the customer experience. Trained in the art of customer service, they possess the soft skills necessary to de-escalate conflicts and diffuse tense situations gracefully. From assisting with queries to discreetly denying entry, their presence enhances the overall ambiance of a luxury outlet.

We understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to retail security. That’s why we tailor our approach to match the unique characteristics and risks associated with each environment. Our security officers undergo comprehensive training that goes beyond physical intervention techniques. They are equipped with the interpersonal skills needed to engage with a diverse range of people and defuse potentially volatile situations with professionalism and empathy.

In light of the escalating abuse faced by retail workers, the role of well-trained security staff has never been more crucial. By investing in proactive security measures and prioritising the safety of front-line staff, retailers can create environments where both customers and employees feel protected and valued. No one should feel unsafe in their working environment.