Iceland store workers are being “threatened with a range of weapons” while some recent assaults have resulted in injuries ranging from a “broken jaw to a fractured skull”, Iceland boss as said calling for more power to stores’ security guards and serious sentences for retail theft.
Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, is the latest retail leader to speak out about the increase in violent attacks on staff working at high street stores.
“Every single week I receive an average of 12 reports of ‘serious incidents’ where managers and other colleagues have been attacked in our stores, almost always by shoplifters,’ he told MailOnline.
“Colleagues are being slapped, punched and threatened with a range of weapons including knives, hammers, firearms and hypodermic needles. Three of our store colleagues are now HIV positive as a result of needle attacks several years ago. Other assaults have resulted in injuries ranging from a broken jaw to a fractured skull,” he said.
Walker revealed that the chain is losing £20million a year through shoplifting as he called for more powers to tackle criminals.
He said security guards should be given the power to search suspects – which they currently can only do with their consent. He also complained that data protection laws had stopped his employees from sharing photos of shoplifters with nearby stores or post their faces on notice boards.
“We’ve had a run in in the past with the Information Commissioner’s Office because sharing photos of known shoplifters with other stores on the high street via WhatsApp groups apparently breaches their human rights under GDPR,” he said, referring to General Data Protection Regulation dating back to 2018.
“When I started working in stores I used to print of faces on the board so staff could be aware but even that may not be allowed now. We are investing record amounts on security but we need legislation and government support.”
Saying that shoplifters know that security guards don’t have right to search anyone, Walker called on for more powers for security personnel to search suspects and detain them until police arrive.
Walker further added that police ignores most calls for help with store thefts.
“We also need the courts to impose serious sentences. It’s almost become seen as a crime without punishment.”
Walker added, “We call them frontline colleagues because they are the first point of contact with customers but sometimes it feels like they’re on the frontline of a war. We are running at about a thousand incidents of shoplifting a day across our two and a half thousand stores,’ he told MailOnline.