Retailer workers are relying on personal phones to communicate in-store amid crime spikes

Retailer workers are relying on personal phones to communicate in-store amid crime spikes
  • 85% of small retail store owners report challenges with communicating to colleagues
  • 49% of workers use WhatsApp as its primary communication tool, often on personal devices
  • 43% cite raising security alerts as the primary reason for communication
  • 12% of staff feel vulnerable on the shop floor, 13% feel isolated and lonely

With retail crime costing convenience stores an estimated £125 million annually (ACS Crime Report 2023) in the UK, and a third of shoppers witnessing violence towards staff, the need for secure, discreet communication is paramount. Yet, many rely on outdated or unsecured methods, leaving staff feeling vulnerable and isolated.

Amid the dramatic rise in retail-crime, 85% of small retail store owners admit to having challenges with communication in-store, exacerbated by team members having no way to speak with each other discreetly without customers overhearing confidential exchanges. This is according to the latest research by VoCoVo, a voice technology innovator for the retail industry. The survey polled over 200 UK decision-makers of small-store and independent retailers.

Security and safety is a major challenge for small retailers, with crime across UK convenience stores estimated to cost £125m a year, according to the ACS Crime Report 2023. The same report uncovered that one-third of shoppers have witnessed violence or abuse towards shop workers in the past year.

Despite the pressing need for secure and instant communication, almost half (49%) of small-store retailer workers rely on texting or apps like WhatsApp to communicate with each other in-store. This is followed by calling each other on mobile phones (46%), which are often personal devices, and worryingly, ‘waving, pointing and facial expressions’ is the third most common (43%).

When asked for the main reason colleagues need to communicate with each other in their retail locations, 43% said ‘to alert to security issues’. In a confined retail environment where situations can arise and escalate fast, the ability to quickly alert colleagues to potential dangers like shoplifting in progress or medical emergency is paramount.

Rob Gamlin, Founder and Co-CEO, VoCoVo, said: “Retail-crime remains an ongoing and worrying threat to small retail stores and it was perhaps not surprising to discover that so many colleagues are reliant on their own mobile devices to communicate and feel more secure. While these devices are ideal in everyday life, more effective retail communication solutions are designed to handle the specific demands of such environments.

“Unlike mobile devices, effective, discreet in-store communication technology allows colleagues to quickly and easily communicate with all team members to help them manage and de-escalate difficult situations. We know from conversations with retail store owners that the visible presence of headsets alone can often be a deterrent for would-be shoplifters. Fortunately, investing in secure communication channels doesn’t need to break the bank, but its absence can cost dearly in terms of safety and security.”

VoCoVo’s survey uncovered that more than one in eight (13%) colleagues admitted to feeling unsafe and vulnerable on the shop floor, whilst a similar number (12%) expressed feelings of isolation and loneliness.

This highlights the human cost of inadequate communication channels and security measures in UK convenience stores.

Visit VoCoVo’s website to find out more about how VoCoVo Link is helping small retailers tackle retail-crime: