Retail staff are increasingly becoming targets of aggression from disgruntled customers. Violence and abuse rose to 1,300 incidents a day since last year in the UK according to the British Retail Consortium, leaving many employees fearful for their safety while simply trying to do their job.

“I feel like a target” states a Sainsburys worker as he fears going to work not knowing if he’ll be verbally or physically abused by customers.

New figures from the retail trade body found that incidents against staff were up by 50% in the year in September 2023, up from 870 incidents a day the year before.

In one of the more extreme cases of abuse in the service sector, one worker was threatened that he would be stabbed when he finished work, by a homeless person who couldn’t pay for the food he attempted to steal.

Gwion Sexton – Sainsburys Shop Assistant

The news comes as retailers are calling on the government to make assaulting or abusing a retail worker an offence, with tougher sentences for perpetrators.

Since the pandemic the rise in shoplifting has also soared, with the number of theft incidents doubling to 45,000 each day.  It  has forced retailers to invest heavily in crime prevention.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about my safety from customers in my place of work”

Gwion Sexton – Sainsburys Shop Assistant

The British Retail Consortium believe it’s due to the “cost of living crisis and the UK recently going into a recession, that people have no choice but to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t.”

The BRC say “that is not an excuse” because retailers on average have lost £1.8bn in the latest year due to shoplifting which was the highest amount on record.


The government have claimed they’ve made it clear to the police they must take a “zero-tolerance” approach to shoplifting.



Caroline Henry – Nottinghamshire Police Crime and Commissioner explains the plan for tackling shoplifting and attacks on retail workers

However, according to the British Retail Consortium, it’s a little to late as they criticised the “woefully inadequate” action taken by the government to address this crisis.

Gwion Sexton has worked at Sainsbury’s for many years and has seen a change in customers attitudes towards staff. He  says that violence has become a daily occurrence. The 22 year old added; “I shouldn’t have to worry about my safety from customers in my place of work”.