Magazine article Marketing

Helen Dickinson on Retail: Violence Costs Retailers Good Staff

Magazine article Marketing

Helen Dickinson on Retail: Violence Costs Retailers Good Staff

Article excerpt

When you consider the issues facing UK retailers, crime may not be the first that springs to mind.

However, it is a persistent problem for the sector.

It is also one of the hardest issues for retailers to deal with because it relates directly to something outside of their control - the behaviour of the British public.

Some time ago, I wrote a column about retail shrinkage - a term used in the industry to describe products that go missing - stolen either by employees or customers.

Shrinkage still accounts for more than three-quarters of the financial losses attributed to retail crime, but there is more to the story than just product pilfering.

There is a hidden cost in terms of the violence experienced by retail staff, and the money retailers spend to prevent crime.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures show that nine out of every 1000 retail staff have suffered a violent incident. Last year, instances of verbal abuse were up 35% from 2003, while physical abuse was up 14%.

Attempting to combat crime and protect staff is costing retailers serious amounts of money. Losses from crime have generally been falling in recent years, but when you combine those losses with the amount spent on preventative measures, the average cost to the sector is pounds 2.1bn a year, according to the BRC.

That is why it was interesting to read the opinion of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) on the recent implementation of chip and PIN.

Widely touted by many as the great hope in the battle against card-based fraud, the ACS view was that it would actually increase the incidences of violent crime against retail staff.

It sounds odd - but logical, when you think it through. Criminals intent on getting something for nothing, finding their card-based fraud route closed off, are likely to turn to alternative means.

The ACS believes they will revert to more simplistic - and physical - ways of forcing money from hapless shop employees.

It may well be right. Trying to predict patterns of human behaviour - particularly among criminals - is never easy.

And therein lies much of the problem with many incidences of physical or verbal abuse - how can we anticipate it? Some of these incidents may be perpetrated by people who come into a store with no intention of causing trouble or committing a criminal offence, but end up doing so because of frustration that may build up as part of their retail experience, from poor service or product unavailability, for example. …

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