Portsmouth shoppers asked to 'be kind' after rising levels of abuse targeted at shop workers

SHOPPERS are being asked to ‘be kind’ in a national campaign that was launched on the back of rising abusive behaviour.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 10:34 am
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 3:23 pm

Southern Co-op, which operates The Co-operative Food stores, as well as funeral and coffee services across the south, is working with some of the UK's biggest retailers, the Home Office and independent charity Crimestoppers in the new #ShopKind campaign.

Mark Smith, chief executive at Southern Co-op, which has its head office at Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth, said staff had been subjected to growing levels of abuse, threats and attacks since the start of the pandemic.

He said: ‘Despite our colleagues going above and beyond to serve our customers and communities during the pandemic, they have still had to suffer verbal abuse, threats and violent attacks.

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‘We had nearly 18,000 reports of crime at our 201 stores in 2020 - an increase of 25 per cent from 2019. This is unacceptable and must stop.

‘While we continue to invest in and take action to protect our colleagues, the ShopKind campaign raises the public profile of this issue and is a positive message of support for retail workers across the country.’

It comes as staff at Co-op stores in Portsmouth started using body-worn cameras and face ID cameras to stop and capture violent shoplifters.

The #ShopKind campaign urges the public to be mindful of shopworkers' essential role – and emphasises that workers should be treated with respect, kindness and gratitude.

The campaign is backed by the Home Office and supported by major high street retailers as well as the nation's independent shopkeepers, and the shopworkers’ Union Usdaw.

The Association of Convenience Stores' 2021 Crime Report, published last month, shows that over the past year there have been over 1.2million incidents of verbal abuse, and around 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores. Of these, more than a quarter involved a weapon, such as a knife, hammer, axe, or syringe.

Two thirds of retailers had experienced Covid-related threats, with the most common causes of abuse being: reminding customers to wear face coverings, reminding customers of social distancing measures and queueing outside stores.

Minister for small business, consumers and labour markets Paul Scully, said: ‘Retail workers have played an essential role in supporting communities across the country during the pandemic and have worked tirelessly to put Covid-secure measures in place to keep us all safe.

‘Staff in our great shops, pubs, hairdressers and more should be treated with the utmost respect and gratitude - after such a difficult year, we all have a duty to treat each other with kindness.’

Mark Hallas, chief executive of the charity Crimestoppers, said: ‘It's truly shocking to think that at a time when we are all so reliant on retail workers to survive during the pandemic, that so many of them are encountering verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis.’