Dozens of UK retailers have written to Suella Braverman demanding urgent action over the soaring number of crimes made in stores.
Some 86 retail leaders, including the bosses of Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, have signed a letter to the home secretary demanding the government clamp down on rising levels of theft and abuse towards shop workers.
It comes as a survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that incidents of violence and abuse towards retail colleagues had almost doubled on pre-pandemic levels to 867 incidents every day in 2021 and 2022.
The report put the scale of retail theft at £953m – despite shop owners shovelling out a whopping £700m in crime prevention annually.
Helen Dickinson, head of the BRC, said: “It is vital that action is taken before the scourge of retail crime gets any worse.
“We are seeing organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores. We are seeing violence against colleagues who are doing their job and asking for age-verification.”
Retailers are now calling for the government to create a specific law to protect shopworkers, with tougher sentences for offenders, similar to the 2021 Protection of Workers which was passed in Scotland.
“This standalone offence would send an important signal that our colleagues will receive better protection in law and act as a deterrent to would-be offenders. This action should be taken without delay,” the letter said.
The Co-op previously warned there were about 1,000 cases of crime and shoplifting at its shops every day in the six months to June.
John Lewis boss, Dame Sharon White, also said some 6,000 high street stores have closed in the past five years as a rise in online shopping and turbulent economy has battered brick and mortar stores.
Dickinson added: “It’s time the government put their words into action. We need to see a standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker – as exists in Scotland.
“We need government to stand with the millions of retail workers who kept us safe and fed during the pandemic – and support them, as those workers supported us.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable to threaten or assault shop workers and these crimes will not be tolerated.
“We recently put aggravated sentences for assaults on shop workers into law, and the Policing Minister has asked forces to take a zero tolerance approach to shoplifting. This includes increasing police attendance at the scenes of these crimes and pursuing all reasonable lines of enquiry.
They added: We are also supporting retailers to share better information on shoplifting with police forces and through our anti-social behaviour action plan, we have committed £160m to make our high streets and communities safer.”