Protecting your staff and shop from customer violence and theft

If you’ve ever worked in customer service or retail, you’ve likely experienced abuse of some kind from a customer. In May 2021, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) published its retail crime survey, which reported that crime in the retail sector is rising to an alarming level. The increase relates to violence towards staff, as well as theft of property.

While there have been serious issues with retail crime for several years, reports of violence towards workers reached new heights in the year from April 1, 2019. The BRC study revealed retail crime cost UK businesses more than £2.4 billion, with the cost of customer theft alone almost £1 billion. The survey also broke down the figures on incidents of violence and abuse, which averaged out at 455 incidents a day.

Reinforcing security in retail stores can help keep staff safe and protect your shop from theft. Putting such measures in place will be particularly beneficial for small businesses, which are more vulnerable and may find it harder to get back up and running if they face a significant loss.

Let’s explore some of the steps you can take to maximise security and keep your shop safe.

Install a CCTV system

Having CCTV in operation will make it easier to catch a thief or assailant should an incident occur. The footage can be shared with the police who may be able to identify the culprit, particularly if they are a known offender.

Installing security cameras may also reduce the risk of your shop being a target for theft and violence. Studies show CCTV equipment has been found to reduce the crime rate in the targeted area, as criminals are less likely to offend if they know there’s a higher chance of being caught in the act.

The addition of CCTV may also have a positive impact on your staff and customers, as they are likely to feel safer in the knowledge that the shop is always being filmed.

Get insured

Ensure you have insurance policies that will cover you for financial loss, property damage and theft. Check your policies regularly and make sure they are up to date. For example, if you buy a new piece of equipment, you’ll need to check your policy covers damage or theft of it.

There are a variety of different insurance options for shops. Be honest with your provider about what the insurance needs to cover and do your research to make sure you choose the best policy for your needs.

If you are an employer, you are legally required to hold Employers’ Liability Insurance. Your policy must cover you for a minimum of £5 million and come from an authorised insurer.

Hire security staff

If your business has experienced several incidents already, or you and your staff are feeling particularly vulnerable, consider hiring security staff. You can ask them to stand inside the store, in areas that are known targets, by the front doors, at the checkouts, outside the shop, or wherever you feel they are best placed to protect your shop, staff and customers.

It’s up to you where you source your security team. You could hire staff through an agency, choose a freelancer or even recruit the team yourself. Whichever method you decide on, make sure you check the references of your candidates and carry out a full DBS check before hiring anyone.

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