Experiencing threats, violence and abuse in your place of work is not acceptable. But for many retail workers, it’s becoming a daily or weekly occurrence.

“90% of retail workers have experienced customer abuse.” (Retail Trust, 2023)

Violence and abuse against retail workers is increasing. A crime survey by the British Retail Consortium showed a 50% increase in levels of retail violence and abuse, to 1,300 incidents a day in 2022/23, from almost 870 per day in the previous year.

Having to deal with abuse, threats or violence is not part of your job. You do not go to work to be abused or harassed.

Anyone working in the retail industry or in a customer service role may face abuse or violence.

This can include checkout operators, cashiers and sales assistants, stockers, visual merchandisers, warehouse staff, customer delivery drivers, store managers, pharmacy technicians, customer service advisors and customer support representatives.

Abuse towards retail workers can take many forms. It can be…

Verbal abuse:

  • being shouted or screamed at
  • being called names
  • racial abuse
  • sexual abuse or sexual harassment
  • being sworn at
  • being insulted, criticised or judged
  • threatened with harm or violence.

Physical violence:

  • being spat at/on
  • being physically attacked, which could include being:
    • pulled
    • dragged
    • pushed or shoved
    • hit
    • slapped
    • punched
    • attacked with a weapon or other item eg a shopping basket.

Someone being destructive or violent in your workplace and causing you fear:

  • causing damage to items or shop fittings
  • breaking windows
  • shoplifting, and abuse if they’re challenged about shoplifting
  • abusing your colleagues or other shoppers.

Nobody should feel unsafe at work. Being shouted at, threatened, abused or having someone being violent towards you is not acceptable.

Dealing with this sort of behaviour can be traumatic. The impact of facing this trauma, especially while you’re at work, can have a real impact on you. You may find it has a long-term and significant effect on you.

Here are some common emotions and responses you may experience:

  • sad, scared or fearful for your safety
  • always feeling tired or exhausted
  • loss of confidence and/or low self-esteem
  • stressed, anxious or on edge
  • frustrated, angry or short tempered
  • numb or disconnected, or feeling not like yourself
  • intrusive thoughts
  • sleep problems.

Please know whatever you’re feeling is normal and OK. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel after experiencing abuse.

If you need support to cope, you can contact us any time, day or night.

If you want to, you can report what’s happened to your manager or a senior member of staff. You can also report it to the police.

Only you can decide if you want to report your experience to the police.

If you don’t know what to do, we can talk to you about what it would mean and what your options are. Whatever you choose, we’ll always respect your decision.

  • If you’re in danger or if it’s an emergency, call 999 and ask for the police.
  • If it’s not an emergency, you can report to the police by calling the non-emergency number 101. You can also contact your local police force.
  • If you want to remain anonymous, you can report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you’re faced with abuse, threats or violence in your role, here are some things you can do:

  • Seek support and advice from a non-judgemental support service such as Victim Support, Grocery Aid or the Retail Trust.
  • If you think your mental or physical health has been affected, you can seek support from a medical professional such as your GP.
  • Report it to your manager, a senior member of staff and/or to the police, if you want to.
  • Speak to your employer about what options are available to help support you in your role. Eg if there are any training courses, and who you can speak to if you have concerns about the incidents you’re facing.
  • If you feel able to, try to confide in a trusted friend or family member about what you’ve experienced and how you’re feeling.

When you report a crime to the police, they should automatically ask if you’d like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.

You can get in touch by:

You can also create a free account on My Support Space – an online resource with interactive guides (including a guide on abuse and violence towards retail workers) to help you manage the impact crime has had on you.

If English is not your first language and you’d like support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak. We’ll call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK and SignLive (BSL).

Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our children and young people website for information.

Further support and information: