Source: Co-op

Tesco, Morrisons and Asda are also involved in the scheme

The Co-op has added its entire 2,400-store estate to the National Business Crime Centre’s Safe Spaces scheme.

The scheme, also known as Operation Portum, sees businesses sign up in a bid to collectively increase safe spaces in retail premises.

Co-op’s addition means anyone feeling unsafe or vulnerable can seek a “safe haven” in their local Co-op, boosting the number of locations signed up to the scheme to more than 13,000 overall.

Grocers involved, which also include Tesco, Morrisons and Asda, are provided with a “consistent and appropriate” framework that guides their staff on how to support those seeking refuge in stores.

This involves providing a member of the public a phone, if required, to contact emergency services, friend, or a relative, and then allowing them to wait safely on the shop floor until that support arrives.

They may also wait in an area that is covered by CCTV for added reassurance.

“Co-op is committed to operating at the heart of local life and nothing is more important to us than the safety of our colleagues, member-owners, customers and communities,” said Co-op operations director Kate McCrae Graham.

“Anyone seeking a safe haven in their local Co-op will always be welcomed, encouraged to report their concerns and, above all, believed – as a convenience retailer, our doors are open from early morning until late into the night, and we want people to know Co-op is always a welcome light and safe haven for anyone who feels unsafe or in need of support.”

NBCC lead Patrick Holdaway said: “We are delighted Co-op is implementing the NBCC Safe Spaces scheme across its stores. The scheme was designed to provide safe spaces for people in local communities that feel vulnerable or need help, and Co-op stores sit at the heart of many of those communities.

“The NBCC has a long working relationship with the Co-op and know how committed they are to protecting their staff and their customers. We know this will offer reassurance to many people who live or work near to a Co-op store, particularly as many stores stay open late at night when people can feel more vulnerable.”