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BRC warns of checkout conflict.

British Retail Consortium : 10 July, 2007  (Technical Article)
On respect for shop workers day, the British Retail Consortium raises concerns over potential conflict at checkouts resulting from new knife and tobacco sale laws.
Retail checkouts could be conflict flashpoints as shop workers become the front-line enforcers of tighter laws on the sale of cigarettes and knives, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is warning on Respect for Shop Workers Day.

The BRC is calling for greater support from law makers, enforcers and the community ahead of changes to the age restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and knives. From 1 October it will be illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. The same restriction is likely to be introduced on the same day for the sale of knives. The current age restriction for both is 16.

The BRC, which supports both changes, believes that if the new limits are not adequately communicated to affected customers there may be an increase in threatening behaviour, verbal abuse and violence against shop workers. They will be the ones who have to say 'no' to 16 and 17 year olds who could previously buy these items.

The warning coincides with the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers' (Usdaw's) Respect for Shop workers Day (today 11 July). The day is designed to promote respect in the retail workplace.

BRC Director General Kevin Hawkins said: "Checkouts are conflict flashpoints where restricted goods such as alcohol, cigarettes and knives are concerned. Saying 'no' can be unpleasant, particularly in the face of intimidation, verbal abuse and even violence.

"Retailers are keen to contribute to reducing smoking and knife crime among young people, if they can, in the same way that the Challenge 21 initiative has been effective in reducing underage alcohol sales. But retailers will need the support of the police and communities.

"The BRC's Annual Crime Survey reveals that almost a quarter of Small to Medium Sized retailers believe it is likely they will lose a member of staff as a result of crime, violence or anti-social behaviour. That is unacceptable. No worker in any field of employment should be subjected to threatening or violent behaviour of any kind."

"The Government needs to make sure teenagers are aware of the changes and the police need to be alive to the fact that these changes may lead to an increase in the number of conflicts in retail outlets."

The BRC is in discussions with Government on how to ensure the public and shop workers are aware of changes to restricted sales legislation ahead of 1 October.
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