Violent attacks on shop staff have risen 50% over the past year, and threats of violence more than doubled, according to the BRC's Retail Crime Survey. How can retailers protect themselves?

John Hannett
General secretary, Usdaw

Says: There are many simple things an employer can do to protect their staff.

1) Carry out a risk assessment and share experience with other local businesses.

2) Think about how the store layout can make it harder for an assailant to attack your staff. Design out hiding places for offenders.

3) Talk to staff to find out their concerns. Train them in conflict management and make sure they never work alone in risk areas or cash up late at night, and can reach their vehicles safely after dark. Remove cash regularly. Encourage staff to report all incidents so you can track offenders.

4) Don't let repeat offenders in and use posters to advertise that you won't sell alcohol and cigarettes to anyone who looks underage. Most verbal abuse happens when underage customers are refused a sale.

5) Get advice from your local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership.

Remember, deterring abusers in the first place is the best way for even the smallest businesses to protect their staff.

Catherine Bowen
Head of crime policy, BRC

Says: Violence and intimidation are consistently among retailers' top concerns. The BRC's 2007 Retail Crime Survey shows violence against staff is up 50%, threats of violence have doubled and incidents per 1,000 employees up by a third. Harassment, abuse and assaults make shopworkers' lives a misery and because most live in the area where they work, they are often affected at home as well.

As retailers you should try to prevent a potentially violent situation from escalating, maintain self control, be firm but still polite and, most importantly, stay calm.

You should also record and report all incidents, using an incident diary for details such as time, what happened, impact on staff and descriptions of those involved. There are bans and curfews that can be applied for and court powers such as ASBOs.

Engaging with the police and your local council's community safety manager, along with other stores, means you can share the evidence and build a support network. You could also set up a Retail Crime Partnership and share intelligence, resources and together apply for exclusion notices.

James Lowman
CEO, Association of Convenience Stores

Says: Many incidents of violence and intimidation occur while staff challenge for ID on age-related products, primarily alcohol and tobacco. As a retailer you have a responsibility to prevent young people from obtaining alcohol and tobacco in your store.

Many staff feel uncomfortable asking for proof of age for fear of the young person's reaction, and the challenge for a retailer is to break this cycle and ensure that the store gets a reputation as being tough on underage purchases.

You can start by following simple policies on this issue:

1) Adopt a Challenge 21 policy where if the customer looks under 21 ask for proof of ID.

2) Use signage to inform customers that they will be checked.

3) Have to hand application forms to offer the customer to obtain a proof-of-age card.

4) Ensure that you and your staff record all refusals including date, time, appearance of the customer, items refused and staff name for every refusal.

5) Log the evidence of any violence, ideally through CCTV, contact the police, and follow up to press for action to be taken against the perpetrator.