The incident at Beckworth in Northamptonshire happened shortly before 7pm on 28 December. A driver rammed a staff member's car before three people got out of the vehicle and forced the man into the garden centre's office. The thieves then searched the office and stole cash.
A staff member was injured at Brigg Garden Centre in Lincolnshire at 6.20pm on 13 December after being assaulted by two men who were allegedly trying to gain access to the grounds.
At Newbridge Nurseries two staff chased an alleged Christmas goods shoplifter and caught him after a struggle on 12 December. Sussex Police said they arrested a man.
With the £7.20 per hour NLW coming in this April, former Garden Centre Association chairman Peter Burks said some centres may cut staff levels because of rising wage bills. "I've only had to deal with shoplifters and night-time break-ins in my career and not anything as nasty as this. It's true a lot of garden centres are very rural and if centres cut their staff they are really at risk. Wyevale Garden Centres when I worked there had good camera systems linked to monitoring stations covering all the perimeters. It was a big cost but you have some control over what's going on."
Beckworth Emporium's Mike Easom said: "CCTV is great to try and catch them but it's more about being vigilant." Opening up and locking up in numbers is "really important" and staff should check whether they are followed on the way home. He added that "it's not worth the fight" with any robbers and said centres need to check they have sufficient insurance in case of a break-in.
HTA security adviser Jeremy Davies said a British Retail Consortium crime survey to be published at the end of January will highlight the issue and there are solutions and procedures to reduce risk. "When closing the business at night it is managed on a case-by-case basis. But to have one person closing at the end of the day is a high risk to that member of staff as business owners have a duty of care towards staff if they are on their own late at night. If you're asked to do this by management, they're putting you in a high-risk situation."
Davies added that bigger retailers always have two members of staff closing up. "Some businesses have a remote monitor CCTV service so at night if someone climbs over the fence a sensor triggers and it comes up on screen in a control room and the third-party service calls the police. The CCTV can follow the intruders back to their car. This negates the need for security officers on site."
Wyevale Garden Centres and Dobbies have security managers and monitoring systems, said Davies. He added that unreported cases of staff getting verbal abuse from disgruntled or rude customers are growing and some physical violence also goes unreported. Generally, only incidents such as those at Beckworth and Brigg are reported.
"From my experience, monitoring the industry since 2008, I've seen more abusive behaviour towards staff but can't say I've seen more burglaries or attacks on staff." The HTA offers a security advice telephone service on 0333 005 0174.
Shoplifting Research shows areas with highest theft levels
Lincoln is the shoplifting capital of England and Wales, according to the Mirror’s data unit. Across England and Wales there were 327,925 cases of shoplifting in the year to the end of June 2015 at a rate of one crime for every 176 residents. This was a rise of 2.6 per cent compared with the 12 months to June 2014 and 8.5 per cent more compared with the year to June 2012.
|Lincoln||1,569||One per 61 residents|
|Westminster||3,786||One per 62 residents|
|Middlesbrough||2,153||One per 65 residents|
|Kingston-upon-Hull||3,416||One per 75 residents|
|NE Lincolnshire||2,080||One per 77 residents|
|Newcastle-upon-Tyne||3,727||One per 78 residents|
|Nottingham||3,956||One per 79 residents|
|Hartlepool||1,138||One per 81 residents|
|Norwich||1,667||One per 82 residents|
|Gloucester||1,508||One per 83 residents|