Shepper has revealed new research on how UK supermarkets are responding to COVID-19, using our network of local Shepherds to collect data on 500 supermarkets across the country. From this data, we revealed that many supermarket staff had received abuse by shoppers since COVID-19 hit the country. 

Coronavirus has changed the way we think, speak and behave. It’s undeniably a scary and unsettled time, with many working in high risk situations on the front line. Unlike those lucky enough to be able to work from home, supermarket staff have been among those required to work in-store throughout the pandemic. Yet, despite the vital work they are doing to keep the UK public fed, our new findings show that 26% of supermarket staff have been abused during the pandemic.

Why exactly are so many shoppers abusing these essential workers?

Shoppers are anxious and frustrated

A global pandemic isn’t an easy situation to cope with, especially when people’s daily lives have been dramatically altered. The media is constantly reporting on negative stories and people are more anxious than ever. Shepper’s research also found that 50% of this abuse occurs where high barriers to housing and services are combined with a high COVID-19 death rate. This suggests that people who are feeling the most pressure are far more likely to act out at supermarkets. 

While non-essential businesses are closed, supermarkets have remained open to the public. Supermarkets have been one of the only places shoppers are able to visit, and so many are taking all of their pent up frustration out during their trips. Unfortunately, supermarket staff are in the firing line.

Shopper experience has changed

In recent years the ‘Amazon effect’ has taken over and we have come to expect full convenience. Consumers are used to getting everything they want quickly and efficiently. However, the pandemic has meant that this streamlined shopping experience has now completely changed. Queuing to enter a supermarket was unheard of a few months ago, yet it’s now the daily norm. Shoppers are also finding it hard to buy certain products due to the issues with stock availability, which is adding to their frustration. When already anxious people can’t purchase their familiar home comforts, it creates an even greater storm.

The double standard with supermarket staff abuse

The real issue with supermarket staff abuse is that there is a double standard with how the British public seem to be treating different kinds of essential workers. Every Thursday, the nation makes a point of clapping for the NHS. People have donated, shared and found many ways to demonstrate a greater appreciation for the healthcare workers on the frontline. While this is a hugely positive outcome from the pandemic, this respect and appreciation isn’t replicated when it comes to supermarket staff, even though they are also playing a pivotal role in keeping the UK going. 

British Vogue has recently made a statement with their new series of covers which include a midwife, a TFL employee and a supermarket employee. Vogue’s powerful imagery and messaging shows that the NHS aren’t the only ones who deserve to be celebrated in these times.

There’s no doubt that the NHS deserve to be applauded for their vital work, but it’s a shame that this hasn’t been extended towards those making sure we have food on our tables.