Retail staff are experiencing up to a 400 per cent increase in abuse from customers prompted by restrictions in place because of coronavirus, a report reveals.
The National Retail Association report released on Tuesday outlines the health and wellbeing struggles facing the sector and calls for retail staff to be classified as frontline essential workers.
NRA chief Dominique Lamb says workers are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
"We'd like to see the government recognise retailers as an essential frontline service and implement a retail resilience program to educate workers on how to cope during the pandemic," she said.
"Areas that require urgent attention include mental health issues, high smoking rates and exposure to violent crime at work."
Some retailers have reported up to a 400 per cent increase in aggression and abuse following customer anger at restrictions, while more than 85 per cent have experienced verbal or physical abuse while trying to prevent a crime.
"Many business owners have been forced to employ security guards and crowd controllers to ensure social distancing measures are followed," Ms Lamb said.
Australian Associated Press