We examine the annual BRC surveys findings and consider the implications for retailers and their employees.

Each year the British Retail Consortium (BRC) publishes its annual, comprehensive survey of crime affecting the retail sector.

The recently published 2023 survey covered the period 2021/2022 and showed shopworkers were subjected to abuse and violence measured at almost twice the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019.

We examine the annual BRC surveys findings and consider the implications for retailers and their employees.

Survey headlines

  • An average of 867 incidents of abuse and violence (which included 29 incidents of violence occasioning injury) occurred
    each working day.
  • Retailers suffered losses of almost £1 billion due to theft, with over 8 million separate incidents recorded.
  • The number of incidents of violence/abuse reported to the Police fell from 57% to 33%.
  • Just 7% of cases reported to the Police resulted in a prosecution with only 1% dealt with as an "aggravated offence".
  • For the first time, over 50% of retailers reported the Police response to incidents as "positive" — 57% of those surveyed.
  • 55% viewed violence as the number one issue affecting retail with over £700 million spent each year on crime prevention measures.


Although the survey reveals levels of violence and abuse at almost twice pre-pandemic levels, the average incident rate in 2021/2022 actually fell from the previous year's high of 1,301 incidents each day.

Several pandemic related factors to include the management of social distancing measures and mask wearing were believed to be behind the high levels seen in 2020/2021. Despite the relaxation of all such measures, a return to 2019 levels has not eventuated.

Several factors are believed to be behind the high incident rate — including shortages seen in several product lines and inadequate staffing — fuelling customer discontent, high levels of food and general inflation, the enduring cost of living crisis and high levels of substance addiction driving acquisitive theft.

The survey does show increased satisfaction amongst retailers in the Police response to incidents — for the first time over 50% of retailers are describing this as "positive" — evidence that Police Commissioners have listened to retailers concerned and have assigned these as higher priority than previously. Despite this, fewer retailers actually reported incidents of violence and abuse — 33% — down from the previous years 57% — perhaps betraying a lessening of confidence.

The number of prosecutions remained effectively stagnant — just 7% of overall incidents reported compared to 6% seen in 2019 and only 1% were dealt with as an aggravated response.

The BRC continues its call for a crime of violence or abuse against a shop worker to be recognised as a separate offence — in addition to improved and clearer sentencing guidelines, an increase in the rate of prosecutions and an extension of digital age verification.

The majority of retailers see violence as the number one issue facing their business today — this survey simply evidences and underlines that concern. With the cost of living crisis likely to endure and in some cases deepen, levels of retail violence and abuse appears set to remain high for the foreseeable future.

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