Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
    The Escalation of Aggression Towards Supermarket Staff: Implementing Safety Measures to Combat Retail Crime

    High levels of verbal and physical aggression against staff at supermarket retailer Woolworths have reached alarming rates in recent months, leading to the introduction of innovative safety measures in an effort to protect employees and curb the rising trend. Woolworths, formerly Countdown, reported a staggering 131 percent increase in physical assaults within a six-month period compared to the previous year.

    Instances of abuse, ranging from verbal confrontations to physical assaults, have deeply troubled Spencer Sonn, the Managing Director of Woolworths New Zealand. Recent reports include team members being spat at, verbally abused, and assaulted, prompting Sonn to emphasize the importance of respect as the holiday season approaches. While acknowledging that the upcoming period can be stressful, Sonn emphasizes that mistreating the supermarket’s team is inexcusable.

    To address the escalating crime wave, Woolworths has implemented various new safety features, including the introduction of fog cannons, the trial of body cameras in ten stores, trolley lock systems, enhanced camera technology at self-checkouts, and double entry gates. Each measure adheres to New Zealand’s legal requirements, including privacy regulations. The company has invested $45 million in crime prevention initiatives.

    Retail unions and organizations have expressed their support for these safety measures. First Union’s national organizer for retail food, Ross Lampert, notes that it is disheartening to witness the abuse faced by supermarket workers, considering they were previously hailed as heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lampert emphasizes the necessity of treating all retail workers, including those at Countdown and Woolworths, with respect and dignity.

    In recognition of the kindness and generosity demonstrated by customers and communities towards Woolworths staff, the supermarket chain will be showing their appreciation by distributing gift cards to local customers. Intercom announcements reiterating the importance of respect and safety will also be made in-store.

    The implementation of these heightened safety measures is a response to the growing concern over retail crime, as captured in numerous video footages over the past years. With brazen thieves helping themselves to trolleys filled with stolen goods, the need to address and prevent such incidents has become increasingly urgent. Retail NZ, a sector lobby group, highlights the rise of organized and violent criminals who believe they can evade consequences.

    The impact of retail crime extends beyond the supermarket walls, with the cost estimated to be around $2.6 billion annually, ultimately affecting customers’ pocketbooks. Therefore, these safety measures not only safeguard supermarket staff but also seek to provide a safer shopping experience for all customers.


    Q: What safety measures has Woolworths implemented to combat aggression towards staff?
    A: Woolworths has introduced fog cannons, conducted body camera trials in ten stores, implemented trolley lock systems, enhanced camera technology at self-checkouts, and reinforced security gates.

    Q: How have retail unions responded to the increase in aggression towards supermarket staff?
    A: Retail unions, such as First Union, have expressed their support for ensuring that supermarket staff and other retail workers are treated with respect and dignity.

    Q: How is Woolworths showing appreciation for the kindness of their customers and communities?
    A: Woolworths will be distributing gift cards to local customers as a gesture of gratitude. Additionally, intercom announcements will reinforce the importance of respect and safety while shopping at Woolworths stores.