Retail workers are the “forgotten frontline”, says report

21 July 2020, 12:14 PM
  • Figures show that retail employees are facing increasing challenges and safety concerns
Retail workers are the “forgotten frontline”, says report

With rents rising, store closures and most recently, the impact of Covid-19, the retail industry is facing tough times. It’s been reported that retail workers are facing increasingly challenging situations, with numbers of employees feeling threatened in the workplace on the rise. According to a new report, Empowering the Forgotten Frontline from VoCoVo, retail workers have become the “forgotten frontline”, with 29% of retail workers surveyed feeling concerned for the safety of themselves and their colleagues in the workplace.

The British Retail Consortium 2020 Retail Crime Survey also revealed that there are 424 violent or abusive incidents per day, which is an increase of 9% from the previous year.

From 24th July it will be mandatory for face coverings to be worn in shops and supermarkets. The news has been welcomed by retailers who hope that it will encourage customer confidence in returning to shopping in store, however there is some concern over whether it could become another “trigger for abuse” for retail workers. Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Of course, we know that face masks cannot be worn by everyone, and wearing them can pose significant challenges for certain groups, such as those who are deaf and reliant on lip reading. We also must be careful that this does not become a trigger for abuse against shop owners and their employees, even though the majority of customers have so far proved accepting of social distancing measures. Understanding and empathy should be important watchwords for all if this does happen.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, commented, “Retailers have made the safety of staff and customers their top priority and we support measures aimed at protecting the health of the public. While retailers will play their part in communicating the new rules on face coverings, they must not be the ones enforcing these rules. With hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse directed at retail staff every day, we welcome the announcement that enforcement will be left to the authorities, rather than potentially putting hard-working retail colleagues in harm’s way.”

Sangita Tryner of Delilah Fine Foods has been following guidelines and taking contact details for customers eating in the establishment, with a clear stance for those very few customers that don’t wish to comply. She says, “We’ve had a couple of people say that they didn’t want to fill out the form. I’m protecting my staff as much as I’m protecting the other customers in the room and if this is what helps trace people and is the right thing to do there’s no reason I shouldn’t be doing it. If you don’t want to fill it in then you’re very welcome to decide where else to eat.“

Mark Kacary, managing director of The Norfolk Deli adds, “If somebody doesn’t want to comply then that’s their decision. However they need to know that their decision will influence our decision not to serve them when we ask them to leave.”

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing