A quarter of newsagents described feeling “extremely concerned” over the level of aggressive or violent customers they have to deal with, in a survey of the sector.
The survey was conducted by the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA), and 1,820 retailers took part in the research, launched at the association's annual conference in Killiney, south Co Dublin.
The report found 44 per cent of retail shop owners described themselves as “concerned” over incidents of violent or threatening behaviour from customers.
Some 43 per cent of small retailers said they had had an incident in their store in the last month, with only half of those describing the response from An Garda Síochána to incidents as adequate.
The national survey of newsagents and convenience stores was conducted in February, with the CSNA stating the findings made for “grim reading.”
More than half of shopkeepers who reported having a recent incident of violent or abusive behaviour believed a conviction in their case was unlikely.
In one case study contained in the report, a shop owner had been to court on eight occasions over one individual, who had 95 previous convictions, and had robbed his store three times.
Peter Gaughan, a Spar shop owner in Balla, Co Mayo, said shoplifting was an "ongoing and recurring problem" for his store.
The same individuals would come into the store, and shoplift a handful of goods, like a bottle of coke or chocolate bar, and walk out, intimidating any staff member who confronted them, he said.
“Why should somebody be intimidated and worried for just working with the public,” he said.
The problem was gardaí would be “laughed out” of court by a judge if they attempted to prosecute a theft of a bottle of Lucozade or coke, Mr Gaughan said.
Another issue was individuals who would act as if they were shoplifting goods, to try and sue the shop for defamation if accused of stealing by staff, he said. “People will be pretending to be shoplifting, looking like they are, and if you’re not watching carefully and you go up and ask what’s in their bag, then you may have defamed them,” Mr Gaughan said.
Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the CSNA, said anti-social behaviour was "at an all time high," and was having a drastic effect on the day-to-day lives of people working in newsagents and small retailers.
Some 27 per cent of retailers surveyed said they had an issue with “persistent and aggressive begging” near their shop.
Nearly nine out of 10 (87 per cent) retailers felt current legislation and its enforcement around security for the retail sector was “insufficient.”
Incidents of violent or aggressive behaviour in shops had led to businesses investing more funds into security. Two-thirds of retailers said they had improved their security systems or hired external security firms in the last year.