By Alasdair Field, CEO, Reveal Media
The lockdown is almost over; across the UK non-essential retailers are finally able to prepare for what they hope will be a permanent reopening. But with various Covid-19 restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, there’s a lingering concern in the minds of many retail leaders: how safe will the in-store environment be for their employees?
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) estimates there have been 50,000 incidents of violence against shopworkers since the pandemic began. In fact, safety fears have led 69 retail leaders to petition the Prime Minister, asking for it to become a statutory offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shop worker in England or Wales (following similar legislation in Scotland). In the letter, one retailer cities more than 1,000 violent incidents in a single week after face coverings were made compulsory in stores.
However, there’s light on the horizon. The trauma of life under COVID-19 may have provoked an increase in public aggression, but the pandemic has also been the catalyst for a more progressive and effective response from retailers and the wider industry.
From CCTV to mobile apps, many businesses are harnessing the power of innovative technology to keep their workers safe. And perhaps the most impactful technical development has been the advancement of body worn camera technology, which has evolved from bulky equipment worn by a small handful of police officers to become a true wearable with proven value-add to the retail sector.
Indeed, during the pandemic we have seen an 80% rise in new retail customers for our range of body worn cameras – and we expect their use to increase even further when lockdown restrictions ease and as non-essential retailers reopen for business.
Cameras provide support and reassurance to both staff and the public. They’re proven to reduce complaints and increase safety by de-escalating confrontational situations, and limiting the use of force. One large retailer told me recently that nine in 10 potentially aggressive situations are now resolved without confrontation once the shop worker explains that the customer is going to be filmed. A front facing screen, such as in Reveal Media’s Calla camera is a game-changer in this respect; customers are able to see themselves (and their behaviour) on camera, making them more aware of how they’re being perceived.
Furthermore, if a violent incident does occur, the use of cameras can be vital for recording evidence, helping the police in their investigations. Our range allows footage to be viewed back immediately, without needing a smartphone or a PC – an added benefit when a quick response is needed. And crucially, footage can be used to improve staff responses in the future, helping workers feel prepared and ready to tackle any issues which may arise.
Of course, accessibility is naturally a key concern when considering the implementation of new in-store technologies. All employees must be able to benefit from these devices, irrespective of their level of technical know-how. In addition to making the basic features and user interface as simple and intuitive as possible, an articulated camera head will make a big difference to how regularly the devices are used. Being able to direct the head allows the camera to be worn in various places on people of all shapes and sizes, or even mounted on an employee’s helmet or cap. Not only that, the camera can be used in vehicle, as an interview recorder or as a handheld camera, depending upon each retailer’s specific needs.
Alongside accessibility, speed is also crucial when it comes to de-escalating confrontation. That’s why a single, quick and simple action to turn the camera on has always been an essential feature in our body cameras. Our intuitive red sliding switch is easy to operate for staff on the go.
We have always put design at the forefront of our product philosophy. Employees need to feel an affinity with what they wear and the equipment they use – otherwise the evidence shows that they simply won’t wear or use it. Strong design takes time and meticulous attention to detail. Not only are our cameras supremely easy to use, they are also designed to be products that users are proud to wear.
Ultimately, everyone should be able to go to work without the fear of being abused or assaulted. It’s worrying indeed to see that instances of abuse are on the rise, and we should remain hopeful that, as the pandemic recedes, this trend will come to be viewed as a temporary blip rather than a disconcerting new normal. But whatever happens next, it’s every retail employer’s responsibility to protect their staff. And, with the help of body worn cameras, these retailers can finally take proactive steps to prevent heated in-store situations from escalating into real danger.
Reveal has been making award winning, smart, efficient and secure body worn video systems for over a decade. With customers in more than 40 countries, our commitment has been to lead the way through collaboration and innovation.
(A Retail Times’ sponsored post)