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    Female staff from ethnic minority likely to face racism amid retail lawlessness

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    Female retail staff and employees from ethnic minority backgrounds were being targeted with misogynistic and racist abuse, a senior industry leader has said.

    Paul Gerrard, a director at the Co-op, said staff were frequently targeted by criminals and had in some cases faced serious physical assaults. He added that female staff and employees from ethnic minority backgrounds were being targeted with misogynistic and racist abuse.

    Gerrard said, “I would suggest, if you are a woman in retail, if you are a person of colour in retail, you are likely to get misogyny and racism thrown at you on a regular basis.”

    “There’s a level of lawlessness that I don’t think anyone in the UK retail sector has ever seen before,” The Telegraph reported Gerard as saying.

    “To give you an example, three masked men break into a store, they’ve got weapons, they jump behind the kiosk of our store, and then proceed to take out the entire vapes, spirits, all the stuff that’s secure around the kiosk.

    “Our store manager rings up the police and the police said [they’re] not going to get there in time so next time can you ring us on 101? But 101 is by definition a non-emergency line – this is for an armed robbery.”

    Abuse also includes workers being followed home from stores, as well as attacks with objects such as bottles and needles.

    The statement comes amid spiraling retail crime rate in the country. Shop staff faced 1,300 incidents of violence and abuse every day over the year to August 31 2023, new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show, up from about 870 the prior year.

    The astonishing total is equivalent to 54 incidents of violence or abuse towards retail staff across the country every hour, or almost one episode of aggression every minute of the day.

    Assault and abuse directed at staff is now as common as it was in the peak of the pandemic, when frustration and anger at restrictions caused a steep jump in incidents.

    As well as a surge in abuse, the cost of theft doubled to £1.8bn in 2023. It has almost trebled from the £502m lost to stealing in 2017. There were around 45,000 incidents of shoplifting across Britain each day in 2023 on average, the BRC said.

    In a separate report released on Feb 7, Co-op reported record levels of crime in 2023 with more than 335,000 incidents of retail crime in its stores, equating to almost 1,000 incidents each day.

    The convenience retailer saw over 1,325 physical assaults against store workers in 2023 (up 34 per cent YOY) - that is three or four colleagues attacked or assaulted every day.

    The industry is calling for the Government to do more to address the problem. Retailers want assaulting a retail worker to be made a standalone offence, which they argue would help improve the quality of data available to police and encourage prosecutions.

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