National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb has slammed customers who refuse to wear a mask in-store and antagonise retail workers.
Her comments come after a video went viral over the weekend which showed a Victorian Bunnings customer refusing to wear a mask and harassing the staff.
And according to retail crime intelligence platform Auror, violence towards retail workers has increased by 17%.
"This behaviour is selfish, inconsiderate and inappropriate," Lamb said.
"The health and safety of everyone – shoppers and workers – should be the number one priority.
"The workers involved did handle the situation well and remained calm throughout, but the incident does underline the need to stay alert to any bullying behaviour.
"I remind you all that you do reserve the right to refuse entry to your premises, as they are private property.
"You can ask customers to comply with a direction that has come from the Victorian government, and that can be enforced by police within Victoria.
"However, it is not the retailer's responsibility to enforce the rule. If the situation escalates, please phone your local police department to intervene," she said.
SDA union national secretary Gerard Dwyer added that shoppers without a mask should be refused entry to shopping centres at the entrance, rather than at the retailer's door.
"The law should be applied and enforced.
"The health and safety of retail workers as well as the general community depend on it.
"Shopping centres attract large numbers of people throughout the week, enhancing the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 if the law is not applied and enforced, including the mandating of masks.
"It would be of great assistance if shoppers were not permitted to enter shopping centres without a mask in line with the Retail Recovery Protocol agreed by the SDA, the National Retail Association, the Australian Retailers Association, the Shopping Centre Council and the Pharmacy Guild on May 1st," he said.
But for those operating at stand-alone sites - such as Bunnings - Lamb said that training and support of retail staff is key.
"It can be difficult to maintain your composure in the face of difficult customers, and even more so when a camera is recording you.
"Again, we commend the cool headed staff at Bunnings for providing clear and calm direction.
"If you would like to speak to our team about putting strategies in place in the event of a difficult customers, you can speak to our team.
"The National Retail Association also offers training in dealing with difficult customers, and if you would like more information for yourself or your team you can reach out here.
"We urge all of you to be on the lookout for any poor conduct and ensure that staff are supported in any such events.
"It’s a frustrating time for many people, particularly in Victoria which is experiencing a second-wave of the virus, but that does not give shoppers the right to flout safety protocols or to unload their frustrations on retail workers," she said.