The Federation of Independent Retailers (Fed) has applauded the government’s latest move to crackdown on retail crime with a focus on preventing assault against retail employees. 

Reports of retail crime are on the rise, with the year ending March 2023 seeing a 24% increase in shoplifting alone. Last year, Benedict Selvaratnam, owner of Freshfields Market in Croydon, told Drinks Retailing that he has had to employ weekend security and install glass barriers around the till area in response to rising crime rates. He said thieves would “jump over the counter to steal spirits”. 

In an effort to address the increasing prevalence of retail crime, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced today (April 10) that assaulting a shop worker is to be made a standalone offence. Those who assault retail workers will face six months in jail or an unlimited fine. Repeat offenders could also be made to wear an electronic tag, as could repeat shoplifters. 

Sunak said: “Our local shops are the lifeblood of our communities, and they must be free to trade without the threat of crime or abuse.”

Muntazir Dipoti, national president of the Fed, welcomed the announcement, saying: “We have been lobbying the government for years for better protection for those who work in shops, for any form of attacks on shop workers to be taken more seriously and for the penalties for those who commit such crimes to be more stringent.”

Dipoti highlighted that shop workers are subjected to “physical and verbal threats on a near daily basis.” He continued: “This, along with unprecedented levels of shop theft, seriously affects the lives of ordinary, innocent people who are simply doing their jobs.

“Having campaigned for so long, Fed members are pleased that tackling retail crime is to be finally given the energy and priority it deserves.”