Protecting Retail Staff: Australian Retail Association CEO Addresses Rising Retail Crime

Australia’s peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) this week brought together the nation’s top major retailers to work together to protect frontline retail workers and prevent the escalation of retail crime across the country.

The NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb was a guest speaker, as was forensic anthropologist and criminologist Dr Xanthé Mallet at the inaugural ARA Retail Crime Symposium.

The top three priorities retailers identified:

  • Tougher penalties against criminals that assault retail workers required in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and ACT
  • Better education on the impacts that retail crime has on retail workers and customers
  • More informed data to highlight the significance of retail crime in Australia

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the surge in retail crime is heavily impacting dedicated frontline retail staff – many who are young and in their first job.

“Our aim is to protect our retail teams and their livelihoods. That’s why we are taking a proactive stance to address this issue,” said Mr Zahra.

“Our retailers are working together with police and criminal experts as well as unions to protect businesses and staff from organised crime attacks and increased assaults as well as general theft.

“All retail workers, whether they’re a casual in their first job or doing the night shift at the local convenience store, have a right to feel safe at work.

“Most of our members have seen an increase in retail crime and have had enough of the toll this is taking on their teams.

“It shouldn’t be the norm to be spat at, yelled at or punched for simply doing your job. Tougher laws, like those recently introduced in SA, NT and NSW, will better protect retail workers and keep them safe.”

A recent ARA survey revealed troubling statistics[1]:

  • More than 91 percent of respondents have experienced retail crime.
  • Shoplifting followed by verbal abuse and customer aggression were the top three criminal activities experienced by retailers.
  • Nearly 50 percent (47.96%) of our respondents have seen an increase in organised crime.
  • Out of the respondents who have had to respond by temporarily closing their businesses, nearly 45 percent of those came from a small enterprise and more than 30 percent from major retailers.
  • Most respondents who said they have noticed an increase in organised crime were from Victoria.

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said the safety and well-being of retail workers is paramount, and everyone must work together to protect them from harm.

“The ARA’s initiative to address retail crime is commendable, and we look forward to collaborating with industry stakeholders to find effective solutions,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Our justice system also has a role to play in protecting businesses and staff. We have advocated for tougher penalties for a good reason – we think if enforced the new tougher penalties will help businesses immensely and reduce the pressure on police.”


[1] ARA online membership survey – 16 August 2023 – 102 retail organisations



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