Retail crime is at a ten year high* – partly as a result of more accurate reporting. We’ve seen eight years of budget cuts to Britain’s policing, a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty. Today’s police officers are dealing with more complex crimes as well as tackling rises in knife and gun crime, robbery, burglary and vehicle-related crime all of which stretch their resources.

Although Co-op sees less violence against shopworkers than other retailers, we still see too many incidents. We’ve done a lot to focus on colleague welfare, a significant investment into technology such as intelligent CCTV, guarding in vulnerable stores during at risk hours and training of our colleagues. That focus and investment will continue as we recognise there’s still much to do in tackling the causes of violence against shopworkers and reducing the impact on our colleagues even further.

Retail crime is often seen as a crime against a business, rather than people. This isn’t a view we share at the Co-op. Every attack that happens in our stores is an attack on our colleagues, and sometimes the personal impact of crime can be forgotten.

We want to change that. We’re working with our recognised trade union, USDAW, and MPs to look at the underlying causes of retail crime and work out how we tackle it together.

Today Alex Norris, MP looked to the House of Commons to support tougher penalties for people who attack shopworkers when they challenge those making age-related purchases. Read more about this in Alex’s blog post.

And next week, David Hanson, MP will propose an amendment to the Bill that will make it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shopworker who is preventing an illegal sale of acid or knives.

We welcome these moves, as we firmly believe that tougher deterrents can go a long way to protect colleagues in our shops.

You can also show your support for the USDAW Protection of Shopworkers campaign by emailing your MP.


Chris Whitfield
Retail Chief Operating Officer

*source: BRC Retail Crime Survey 2017

Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. Many of these comments are regarding one on one staffing. I have voiced my concerns about this to everyone who will listen. They’re always sympathetic and make all the right noises and then do absolutely nothing. One on one staffing is here to stay and will need something catastrophic to occur to change the attitude of the board.

  2. Bernard makes his point very well and is absolutely correct. Assault is an offence in law and it should not be necessary to make new laws to protect shop workers as they already adequately exist.
    As a Coop worker and Self-defence professional, I would suggest that all that is needed is a bit of thought and pre-planning to build in safe systems for working on your particular site bearing in mind your staffing levels and abilities. And the commitment of managers to protect their staff by insisting on the prosecution of people who harm or threaten to harm staff.

    • Bob

      as I have replied to Bernard this is different because many incidents occur when shop workers enforce the law in relation to age-restricted sales.

      I can assure that we do put a great deal of thought, investment and time into keeping our colleagues safe in the 2,500+ sites we run but the reality is that in a society where violent incidents, especially involving weapons, is at an all-time high and rising this is a complex issue with needs more than ‘a bit of thought and pre-planning’


  3. “And next week, David Hanson, MP will propose an amendment to the Bill that will make it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shopworker who is preventing an illegal sale of acid or knives.”

    It already is an offense to assault, threaten and abuse shopworkers, regardless of what they are or aren’t selling.
    This should not be used as a PR stunt for an MP looking for a bit of positive press.

    Assault is assault, irrespective of whether it’s on a shopworker, customer, or anyone else in the vicinity.

    • Bernard

      you are right but the point here is that shop workers are effectively enforcing the law where age-restricted sales are concerned so when doing so an aggravated offence should apply. Moreover, a significant proportion of incidents come from the refusal to sell these age-restricted goods.

      This isn’t a PR stunt with respect its about doing all we can and ensuring every tool is available to deter and prevent attacks on my colleagues in store.


  4. these fobs sound like they could be a great investment for all colleagues working on their own (or with minimal support) to provide reassurance

  5. USDAW aren’t lobbying the Co-op to end one-on-one working. We’re working with them to look at the underlying causes of retail crime and work out how we tackle it together.

    Crime happens in all of our shops but we know there’s a feeling of vulnerability which is why we’re looking into other ways we can help colleagues feel safer such as headsets, intelligent CCTV and ways of working (e.g. tablets and top shelves) that encourage colleagues to be on the shop floor as much as possible.

    You should speak to your store and/or area manager if you feel unsafe at any point during work.

    • “…USDAW aren’t lobbying the Co-op to end one-on-one working…”
      — then they should be

  6. In the statement you’ve mentioned that there has been 8 years of cuts to the police. Isn’t this true of coop cutting staff on the shop floor too, staff numbers are at its minimum level and every five finger discounter in town knows this, but who suffers? The customer and the employee. Its not just the responsibility of the police, we have put the stock there so surely its our responsibility to look after it. Profit should never come before your staff or customers wellbeing.

  7. Is this anything to do with Usdaw members lobbying the Co-op to end one-on-one working?

    I know this is an impossibility in most stores (indeed many of our stores that were sold to rontec and mccolls now operate with a lone worker so they make a profit), but I can’t help thinking this article is saying “lets look like we’re doing something about this to pacify the union for a while longer”.

  8. One of the biggest problems stores face when dealing with abusive customers, is the fact that so often they are working one on one. One person has to stay on the till, the other is running between helping on the till, the bakery sometimes, deliveries, phone calls, change requests, the list goes on. I did it myself countless times, even while pregnant, and its unacceptable. The stores need to be given the staffing budget to operate safely and professionally.

  9. We are inviting incidents in our stores by having just two staff on a late shift.
    Being on the till alone late at night does not feel safe and our team feel very vulnerable once the shop is less busy and you are left on the shop floor regularly whilst the team leader does the warehouse etc.
    I have worked for the coop for several years and we have less staff on than when i started. Friday night is nearly always just two staff.
    Investment in staff should be a priority, if there were three people every evening we would save more than enough money through detering theives to pay for the extra staffing.

  10. You’ve also said that headsets help so that the one member of staff out on the shop floor doesn’t feel as isolated.

    That one plus one isn’t unique to the Co-op anymore I noticed it in my local WH Smith recently.

    The sixth formers had noticed it too…..

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