Communications union Connect is to launch a campaign at the end of the month to reduce violence and abuse in retail stores.
Connect said the Respect in Retail campaign will address the problem of violent customers attacking store staff after it found a high level of such incidents.
The union conducted a survey in Autumn last year indicating that 80 per cent of those surveyed had been verbally abused at work in store.
Seven per cent also claimed to have been victims of physical violence.
Connect said in 2006, there were 16,000 reports of physical attacks in the UK on retail staff and 83,000 of verbal abuse.
The campaign is backed by Manchester United football club manager Alex Ferguson and personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
Connects general secretary Adrian Askew said: “Everyone deserves the right to respect and protection in the workplace.
“We believe that as an employee you are entitled to expect to be fully backed up by your company in the event of a verbal or physical attack from a customer.
“Whilst most employers are good at supporting their people, sometimes members tell us that they seem to be more interested in not offending customers than protecting their own staff.”
Connect will issue postcards advising staff how to deal with difficult customers as well as campaign materials for those interested.