Australian retail representatives are demanding state governments implement tougher penalties for individuals who assault retail workers.
In the past year, the South Australian Government introduced a maximum penalty of five years for those convicted of basic assault against a retail worker.
Similar laws have also been a talking point during the lead-up to the NSW election.
Spokespeople for the National Retail Association, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, and Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called for other states to implement similar laws.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said aggression directed at retail staff became an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic and is yet to subside.
“Customer aggression has been an ongoing challenge for frontline staff. We saw a big rise in the number of customers who chose to unleash their frustrations on retail staff during the pandemic,” he told Ragtrader.
“We expected this to subside when restrictions lifted – but it simply hasn’t. The rise of anti-social behaviour is also a concern for us. A crime does not need to have been committed in order for physical or mental harm to be done to retail workers and so we also need the community to play their part in stamping out unacceptable behaviour.”
New Zealand retailers struggling
New Zealand retailers are being encouraged to brace for a difficult year ahead following weak sales performance during the holiday period.
New Zealand’s GDP shrunk by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022, with the retail and accommodation sector declining by 1.9 per cent.
Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford said that around half of all retailers believe they will fail to meet sales targets in the second quarter of 2023, with a further 30 per cent expressing a lack of confidence in surviving the next year.
“The significantly soft results in a key period for retailers across New Zealand has led to a pessimistic outlook for the sector going forward,” he explained.
“In the same period, Retail NZ’s Retail Radar found that while 63 per cent of retailers had expected to hit their sales targets for the quarter, only 34 per cent managed to achieve this.”
He added: “The first two and a half months of 2023 have been incredibly tough for retailers. Significant weather events, a downturn in consumer confidence, inflation being impacted by domestic factors like wage increases, supply chain, and supplier price increases – demonstrate the seriousness of the challenges faced by the sector.”
New Zealand’s retail sector employs more than 220,000 people.
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