ACS chief executive James Lowman

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed a letter from Welsh environment minister Lesley Griffiths, calling on chief constables to ensure that there is proper support for the 3,000 convenience stores in Wales when dealing with Covid-19 restrictions.

In the letter, the environment minister highlights the “significant escalation” in abuse experienced by all kinds of retailers, including both large supermarkets and small convenience stores, during the Covid-19 crisis, with common triggers for abuse from customers stemming from those unwilling to follow social distancing and face covering requirements.

The letter states that in some areas, the police had not responded to over 20% of incidents of abuse, leading to retailers feeling as though there was not adequate support from local forces. There were also concerns raised about the role of retailers in enforcing regulations on social distancing and the wearing of face coverings – the minister reinforces in the letter that retailers “should not be expected to challenge customers and enforce the regulations, and to attempt to do so would risk the health and safety of their staff”.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome this important intervention from the minister, which confirms that retailers should not be expected to challenge those customers who are unwilling to follow the social distancing measures or face covering regulations. While the vast majority of customers have been incredibly supportive of their local shops during this time, there are some who are being abusive and violent to colleagues. These incidents should always be reported, and retailers should have confidence that the police will deal with offenders appropriately.”

Figures from ACS Covid Impact Survey show that 40% of retailers experienced an increase in violence and abuse during lockdown.

ACS is working with the Home Office on a campaign to ensure that all incidents of violence and abuse are reported to police, and to enforce the message that abuse is not part of the job for colleagues and retailers.