As a new survey reveals customer abuse of retail workers is rampant two brands have gotten behind an Australia-first pilot to tackle the issue.

KFC and the Reject Shop last week kicked off a trial aimed at monitoring anti-social behaviour against retail workers with the hopes of developing a blueprint of solutions for other retailers.

The Australian-first trial responds to a survey from the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association which in February found customer abuse of staff is widespread and on the rise.

The survey of 6,000 retail workers found 88 per cent had been verbally abused in the past 12 months, while 15 per cent had been physically attacked and 11 per cent had been sexually harassed.

The trial was launched after weeks of research from academics at Griffith University, who undertook a literature review to determine four key ways of minimising abuse of retail staff – these are environmental, training, timely support and policy guidelines.

It’s these four solutions that inspired Dr Sam Ferguson, senior research fellow at Griffith University, to launch the trial in partnership with icare and the Reject Shop and KFC with the goal of testing the efficacy of these solutions.

The trial will be rolled out at three KFC and three Reject Shop stores and will see retail staff at each store fill in daily diaries noting any instances of abuse. Researchers will then collect that data fortnightly and use it to  inform training across the stores to test the effectiveness of the four solutions.

This will be followed by a one month period where staff will record the effectiveness of these measures.

Dr Ferguson says she hopes to develop a workbook following the trial to help other retailers respond to these incidents.

While it’s mainly major incidents that are reported to retailers’ insurance providers, its smaller incidents of abuse that can themselves have a devastating I pact and need to be addressed, Dr Ferguson said.

“The research shows those behaviours over and over and over again have potentially just as devastating consequences. Burnout, absenteeism, self-esteem. These are all potential markers to anxiety and depression.  And because they’re not reported, managers may not be aware,” she said.

The results of the study will be published later this year.