Woolworths New Zealand has confirmed that physical assaults on staff have increased by 50 per cent to 329 incidents in the last 12 months, compared to 219 in the previous year. 

It has also reported that there were 925 acts of violence and aggression in its stores, up from 848 in the previous year - a 9 per cent increase. 

Despite the surge, use of weapons has reduced by 22 per cent.

Woolworths New Zealand’s director of stores Jason Stockill said what they’re seeing from offenders coming into stores is unacceptable and while new security measures are having a positive effect, more needs to be done.

Recently, Woolworths introduced a range of security and safety measures into its stores as part of its $45 million, three year investment programme. These measures include team safety cameras in all stores, trolley lock systems, fog cannons, double-entry gates and anti-sweep shelving.

Every store has different measures in place, and not all of these security measures will be in place in all stores.

Further security measures are being considered including duress alarms for team members working in isolated locations. 

“Our team is being threatened and hurt in broad daylight, and despite offenders being arrested and going through the justice system - they’re coming back and doing it again,” Stockill said. “We’ve been pleased to see the focus on law and order and look forward to working with the Government further this quarter.

“Our responsibility is to keep our team and customers safe in our stores, and we’re investing in a range of security measures to help with that, but we can’t do it alone. We need continued collaborative action across Government, agency and industry.”

Woolworths New Zealand is asking for consideration of a similar system to Australian Workplace Protection Orders and improvements to trespass law for retail businesses.

National peak body Retail NZ called the surge in physical assaults “distressing”, adding that this highlights the real dangers facing all retail workers. 

Every day, retailers are dealing with threatening, violent or simply unpleasant members of the public who are trying to steal, assault staff, or damage their property, Retail NZ CEO Carolyn Young said. Organised crime groups stealing to order, drug addicts and youths looking for notoriety on social media are driving retail crime, she added.

According to the latest data from Retail NZ’s Crime Report in October 2023, more than 92 per cent of retailers have faced retail crime, with the cost hitting well over $2.6 billion a year. 

“Crime puts both retail staff and the public at risk, as well as threatening the financial sustainability of retail businesses,” Young said. 

Retail NZ supports the introduction of new technologies to proactively combat retail crime. 

“We are pleased the Government is committed to tackling retail crime. We will continue to advocate for more resourcing for police and increased protections for retail staff.”

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