UK colleagues are facing unprecedented levels of abuse and violence. Here’s how we can help.

A new report shows that violence against UK retail colleagues is at an all-time high. Here’s how our headsets can help you to protect your team.

Article by Olivia Robinson | 23rd February 2024

A new report by the British Retail Consortium has confirmed what those of us in the industry already knew- violence and abuse against retail colleagues is out of control. 

The latest statistics paint a bleak picture. Since the pandemic, colleagues have suffered unprecedented levels of abuse, and things only seem to be getting worse:

  • Incidents of violence and abuse have more than tripled since the pandemic
  • UK colleagues are now facing 1300 incidents of violence and abuse every day
  • Incidents of racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault and threats with a weapon increased by 50% in 2023


Violence and crime go hand in hand

While some of these incidents can be attributed to customer impatience, the vast majority are a symptom of a much bigger problem. With the economy on the brink of recession and inflation driving up the prices of everyday goods, shoplifting has become a lucrative prospect for criminals. Opportunistic individuals have been replaced by organised gangs, and the impact on stores has been devastating:

  • Theft more than doubled in 2023, with stores recording over 16.7 million incidents
  • Shoplifting has quadrupled since the pandemic
  • The Co-Op saw a 44% rise in crime last year, while John Lewis suffered a £12 million increase in losses from theft


This would be bad enough if criminals were only stealing, but the real concern is their willingness to use violence. Colleagues are increasingly being forced to choose between protecting the business and protecting themselves, leaving many afraid to go to work. Paul Gerard is The Co-Op’s Campaigns and Public Affairs Director. He paints a chilling picture of the threat to colleagues:

“People are being followed home from work. I know of one example where we had to move people for their own safety.”


Colleagues need support now

This is extremely worrying, but there are some signs of hope. Last October, 90 retail leaders wrote to the government to demand action on violence in stores. The government responded to their concerns, publishing an action plan to tackle retail crime. This included harsher punishments for violent offenders and a commitment by the police to prioritise attending violent shoplifting incidents.

These are welcome measures, but things won’t improve overnight. Harsher punishments and an increased police presence may lead to a long-term reduction in violence, but colleagues need to feel safe in the meantime. This is where we can help. 


Our headsets allow constant communication between colleagues, security teams and emergency services. This not only helps stores to tackle crime, but reassures colleagues that they won’t have to face violence and abuse alone:

  • Colleagues can call the security team at the push of a button. This is far more discreet than a tannoy announcement, allowing them to raise the alarm without making themselves a target. 
  • Telephony integration allows colleagues to call emergency services from anywhere in store. This spares them the stress of trying to reach a phone during a dangerous situation.
  • Our message cast feature can be used to warn colleagues of criminals operating in their area. Rather than waiting for a team meeting to hear security updates, colleagues can receive them in real time straight from head office. 
  • Thieves can see that colleagues have a direct line of communication with security and police, and this acts as a powerful deterrent. 


Our headsets have led to a significant reduction in crime in a number of UK stores. An independent grocery retailer in Scotland was able to reduce alcohol theft to almost zero, while also catching several persistent shoplifters. This created an estimated saving of £330 a week, or £17,160 a year. 

These are serious savings, but the real benefit of our headsets is in the comfort they bring to colleagues. Our research shows that colleagues feel 54% safer when wearing them, and this effect is even greater for those working alone or at night. 

Every retail colleague deserves to feel safe at work, and we won’t rest until they do. Talk to our team today to find out more.

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