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Eighty five per cent of small retail store owners admit to having challenges with communication in-store, exacerbated by team members having no way to speak with each other discreetly, without customers overhearing confidential exchanges.

This is according to the latest research by VoCoVo , a voice technology innovator for the retail industry. The survey polled over 200 UK decision-makers of small-store and independent retailers.

Despite the pressing need for secure and instant communication, almost half (49%) of small-store retailer workers rely on texting or apps like WhatsApp to communicate with each other in-store. This is followed by calling each other on mobile phones (46%), which are often personal devices. Waving, pointing and making facial expressions is the third most common way of communicating (43%).

When asked for the main reason colleagues needed to communicate with each other in their retail locations, 43% said ‘to alert to security issues’. In a confined retail environment where situations can arise and escalate fast, the ability to quickly alert colleagues to potential dangers like shoplifting in progress or medical emergency is paramount.

Rob Gamlin, founder and co-CEO, VoCoVo, said: “Retail crime remains an ongoing and worrying threat to small retail stores and it was perhaps not surprising to discover that so many colleagues are reliant on their own mobile devices to communicate and feel more secure. While these devices are ideal in everyday life, more effective retail communication solutions are designed to handle the specific demands of such environments.

“Unlike mobile devices, effective, discreet in-store communication technology allows colleagues to quickly and easily communicate with all team members to help them manage and de-escalate difficult situations. We know from conversations with retail store owners that the visible presence of headsets alone can often be a deterrent for would-be shoplifters. Fortunately, investing in secure communication channels doesn’t need to break the bank, but its absence can cost dearly in terms of safety and security.”

VoCoVo’s survey uncovered that more than one in eight (13%) colleagues admitted to feeling unsafe and vulnerable on the shop floor, while a similar number (12%) expressed feelings of isolation and loneliness.

News of the survey comes as the standalone offence of assaulting a shopworker, which was included as an amendment in the Criminal Justice Bill, did not make it into law. Unfortunately, due to the General Election being called early, the Bill was not passed before the dissolution of parliament.