Coronavirus: One in six shop staff abused daily, union says, as masks become flashpoint

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

New figures given to ITV News today show that shop workers are increasingly on the frontline of customer frustrations over coronavirus rules. 

Face masks and social distancing have become flashpoints as the UK's shopping environment is transformed by anti-viral precautions. A campaign for new legislation to better protect retail staff is now gathering pace.

One grocery worker in Liverpool told me how afraid she had been when a customer threatened to stab her. The incident happened after she asked a shopper to wait outside before entering the store. Retail staff did not come up with the rules, but they are getting flack for trying to implement them.

  • UK’s largest grocery chain, the Co-Op, reports 133 abuse incidents a day on average

  • Of those, around nine a day concern face masks

  • Overall 140% rise in abuse this year

  • The shop workers union, USDAW, say one in six have suffered abuse on a daily basis

Superdrug today announced new moves to combat in-store aggression and violence with its “Be Kind, Shop Kind" initiative.

The chain says there has been a rise in aggressive behaviour towards retail staff, with 21% increase during the pandemic.

  • Co-op shop worker recalls knife threat from customer

Superdrug says many of the incidents were the result of product “testers” (which allow customers to sample product) being banned. Members of staff have been in the firing line for aggression and abuse.Some in the retail sector claim police and courts do not take this abuse seriously enough. Labour MP Alex Norris has introduced a Parliamentary Bill seeking to increase sentences. Government told us it is seeking to strengthen existing laws and is writing to chief constables about the issue.