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Retail Workers Fear for Safety: Survey

Technology, communications preparedness and training can aid staff and shoppers alike.

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Aggressive shoppers are one of many headaches facing retail workers during the holiday season. PHOTO: shironosov/iStock.com

As the year’s peak shopping season nears its frenzied crescendo, an inaugural Retail Worker Safety Report from Motorola Solutions found that many retail workers and managers perceive safety incidents at their stores are on the rise. The survey’s U.S. respondents reported that petty theft (54 percent), grab-and-run incidents (35 percent) and hostile customer interactions (31 percent) have increased in their stores over the past year, and as a result, nearly two out of three are at least somewhat concerned for their personal safety at work during this holiday shopping season.

“The holiday bustle can be a stressful time for retailers. Sales associates and managers shouldn’t have to be concerned about their safety on top of everything else,” said Sharon Hong, VP, Ecosystem Solutions at Motorola Solutions. “Our report found that retail workers are looking for more technology that can help them be better aware of safety threats, spot illicit activity and communicate quickly and seamlessly with other employees and first responders should an incident arise.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Low-tech communication channels are still heavily relied upon during store emergencies: Retail workers and managers said they access landline telephones (58 percent) and PA systems (45 percent) to report store safety concerns while nearly one-third (28 percent) would rely on yelling to inform coworkers of an incident. These methods do not often enable a quick connection with public safety officials should store employees need immediate help.
  • Technology can play a meaningful role in increasing retail workers’ feelings of safety: Respondents said their stores currently feature video security systems (76 percent), alarm systems (64 percent) and merchandise sensors (44 percent), but that additional technologies would make them feel safer such as artificial intelligence (AI) to detect guns (42 percent), access control systems to lock doors when threats are detected (36 percent), wearable/mounted panic buttons to alert for help (30 percent) and license plate readers to identify vehicles associated with criminal activity (30 percent).
  • Some retailers are updating their safety and security protocols to support preparedness: Respondents reported progress in terms of preparedness and awareness. About one-third (36 percent) said their employer has introduced a new worker safety measure in the past 12 months, with top changes including increased emergency response training (49 percent), more timely communication about in-store incidents (41 percent) and additional security personnel (33 percent).

The survey for the study was done by the independent market research firm Researchscape, and involved responses from more than 1000 retail store associates and managers in November.

Click here for more from the survey.

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