Respect for shopkeepers week: Is self-protection essential for retail workers?

by | Nov 18, 2023

Image: Classroom (credit: Instincts Training Limited)

Self-protection for shopkeepers in Rotherham has been the focus this week after statistics show crime rates to have risen. 

Paul Bell, 52, Director of training at Instincts training limited believes ‘self protection’, ‘self preservation’ and especially ‘de-escalation’ training to be an essential life skill for people working in retail.

The Rotherham based ‘anti violence’ training organisation provides a series of customised self protection and de-escalation training to retail employees. 

Their main ‘mantra’ is: “Everybody should have a right to feel safe, people should have confidence to understand and feel safe.”

Mr Bell said: “Human beings are awful as a species. They tend to hurt each other so I believe you’re always going to get an element of it and we’re just trying to help people who come across the element.” 

Dawn O’Hara, 58, Director of Marketing and Business said: “We get all sorts of cases of sexual harassment from being picked on, online bullying, etc.” 

Both of them have worked in retail for approximately 30 years and have first hand experiences of physical and verbal abuse as retail employees. 

The director of marketing and business had experiences of being threatened with a screwdriver and a knife and also underwent being screamed at as a retail employee working under a ‘customer is always right’ management. 

Mr Bell had experiences of being ‘aggressively threatened’ and faced an instance of getting punched in the face.

He was also threatened with a screwdriver amidst stopping a shoplifting situation and has undergone being repeatedly sworn and shouted at when working under ‘customer service’. 

Image: Instincts Training Limited

New research ranks Rotherham 11th out of 25 nearby boroughs and local administrative districts in terms of crime rate.

According to ‘Crime in my Area’, a total of 30296 crime incidents were reported in 2022, out of which 4397 were about anti-social behaviour, 1846 for burglary, 1151 for shoplifting, and 248 for robbery.

All of which are ‘common crimes’ that circulate around retail life.

Mr Bell said: “We do teach some self defence as well but it’s more about the psychology of what is happening in that particular situation and how to keep calm.

“Retailers have pulled a lot of the training because they believed we were encouraging their staff to ‘fight back’ which is not what we do. It’s a ‘misconception’.

“We are finding it really, really difficult to get through and get our message across to the heads of departments, the heads of retails and just say ‘hey listen we are not tryna teach your guys to fight, we’re tryna teach them to be safe’.” 

He further added: “My degree is psychology so I put a lot of psychology into it. The best self defence that you can have is right from the first feeling that you get that something’s wrong, that’s actually self defence. That’s your gut telling you, the vibrations around you aren’t quite right and it’s time to probably get out of there.

“But people don’t see that, you say to somebody ‘self defence’ and they immediately think of fighting.”

For more information about the organisation and what courses they offer please visit their website.