New research commissioned by Circle K, surveyed 380 of its own colleagues working across its network of locations in Ireland and 500 people employed across a broad range of retail settings in Ireland. The research is designed to highlight the issue of unacceptable customer behaviour towards staff in retail settings with Circle K strongly urging the public to consider the impact of their behaviour on retail workers. The research results point towards what is a significant challenge for the overall retail sector in Ireland, which employs over 300,000 people from a total workforce in Ireland of over 2.5million.
Physical assault is another serious issue which the research highlights with 50% of Irish retail workers having witnessed a colleague being physically assaulted by a customer. Meanwhile, over four in five Circle K employees (83%) report witnessing customers verbally abuse colleagues. Another 69% of Circle K retail employees report that they have seen fellow colleagues experience inappropriate behaviour, such as verbal abuse, when dealing with customers.
Almost a third of retail workers (28%) and almost a fifth of Circle K retail employees (18%) say the harassment they have experienced from customers was based on gender. A further 34% of Circle K retail employees say they have experienced incidents of harassment based on race.
Commenting on the research findings, Gordon Lawlor, Managing Director of Circle K Ireland, said, “As Ireland’s largest forecourt and convenience retailer, we have seen this issue develop first-hand and while the vast majority of our customers behave appropriately, we are increasingly seeing incidents of unacceptable behaviour by certain customers towards our colleagues. Our research clearly demonstrates that this issue is not just confined to Circle K and is a challenge for the wider retail sector at large.”
Director of Retail Ireland Arnold Dillon said, “The level of harassment toward retail staff is an enormous concern. The survey highlighted some very serious issues, including incidence of physical assault and verbal abuse, that retail workers have had to contend with. The consequences for staff are very real, including mental health issues, burnout and increased absence. At a time when there are labour shortages in many parts of the sector, it’s important that everything is done to make the sector an attractive place to work. We all have a part to play in supporting retail employees and together reducing the levels of harassment.”
In response to the survey findings, Circle K has launched a new initiative encouraging the public to consider the impact that their behaviour has on retail workers and to always treat them with kindness.