Knife crime is on the rise with fatal stabbings at a record high. Whilst there are many reasons for this rise, the ease of availability of knives is one of the major reasons why knives constitute a high proportion of weapon-related crime. Almost everyone will have access to a kitchen knife but knives and sharps objects are also easily obtainable in garden centres and builders merchants, from catalogues and on the internet.

The law

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is an offence for any person to sell to a person under 18:

  • any knife, knife blade or razor blade
  • any axe
  • any other article that has a blade or is sharply pointed and is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person

The prohibition does not apply to:

  • folding pocket knives if the cutting edge of the blade is less than 7.62 cm (three inches)
  • replacement cartridges for safety razors, where less than 2 mm of the blade is exposed


The legislation is enforced by the police and trading standards, however many of our builders’ merchant and garden centre clients have been seeking advice on this matter from the safety professionals here at Southalls.

What should you do?

1. Age verification checks

Always ask young people to produce proof of their age. A passport or photocard driving licence can also be accepted, but make sure that the card matches the person using it and the date of birth shows they are 18 or over.

2. Operate a Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 policy

This means that if the person appears to be under 21 or 25, they will be asked to verify that they are 18 or over by showing valid proof of age. Challenge 25 stickers on counters are a useful reminder to staff.

3. Staff training

Make sure your staff are properly trained. They should know which products are age restricted, what the age restriction is and the action they must take if they believe a person under is attempting to buy. This training can be logged on Safety Cloud.

4. Maintain a refusals log

All refusals should be recorded (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer). Maintaining a refusals log will help to demonstrate that you have actively refused sales and have effective systems in place.

5. Store & product layout

Identify the age-restricted products in your store and consider moving them nearer to the counter, or even behind it. Consider displaying dummy packs so that people have to ask for the products if they want to buy them.

6. Till prompts

If you possess an EPoS system, it may be possible to use it to remind staff of age restrictions via a prompt. Alternatively, stickers can be used over certain product barcodes.

7. Signage

Display posters showing age limits and a statement regarding the refusal of such sales. This may deter potential purchasers and act as a reminder to staff.

8. Closed-circuit television (CCTV)

A CCTV system may act as a deterrent and reduce the number of incidents of underage sales. It will also help you to monitor ‘blind spots’ within your store, if it is not possible to change the layout or relocate the products behind, or closer to, the counter.

At Southalls, our main remit is advice on health & safety and food safety matters in garden centres and builders merchants, but at times we become a ‘one stop shop’ for client queries in the wider context. Please contact Southalls for further information on retail environment knife sales or advice regarding online knife sales.