5 ways the big supemarkets are tackling shoplifting

As food prices soar and the cost-of-living crisis continues, shoplifting has become a growing concern across the UK’s leading supermarkets.

Theft of alcohol, meat and confectionery is at its highest rate in a decade, according to the Association of Convenience Stores.

With rates rising and food inflation remaining in the double digits, many retailers have put measures in place to limit crime in stores. We look at five solutions supermarkets are using to put a stop to shoplifting.

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Sainsbury’s and Morrisons install exit barriers

Both Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have introduced exit barriers at the self-checkout areas of some stores.

Sainsbury’s was first spotted introducing the measure, which requires shoppers to scan their receipt to exit, in December 2022.

However, many shoppers were quick to share their dislike of the system, with one Twitter user claiming there had been “no warning, no in-store signage” and that the process “didn’t work”.

Last week, Morrisons introduced a similar measure in several stores. However, customers do not need to scan their receipts to exit the electronic barrier. It automatically recognises when a transaction has been made at the till and opens the gates for shoppers to leave.

Customers wishing to leave without making a purchase have to call a member of staff to let them out.

Morrisons ‘buzz for booze’

Morrisons has also introduced a ‘buzz for booze’ system across a number of stores at the beginning of the year, including its branch off Hagley Road in Birmingham.

The supermarket has locked alcohol in glass cabinets, and customers have to press a button and wait for assistance in order to unlock the doors.

A sign featured in stores read: “To purchase champagne or spirits from the cabinet, ask one of our colleagues or press the call-point below.”

In February, a customer of the Hagley Road store said on Facebook: “The manager told me this is their last resort or they will stop stocking spirits altogether.”

A spokesperson told Grocery Gazette that the system had “received good feedback from customers”.

“The buzzer also goes to the store headsets so customers can expect really prompt service,” they added.

Co-op and M&S stock ‘dummy’ products

Some Co-op and M&S stores were found to have placed a reduced level of high-value products on shelves last month, instead displaying ‘dummy’ products.

M&S x Co-op store signs

The Times reported that select M&S shops, including its Harrow store in northwest London, had a limited number of steaks displayed on-shelf.

A spokesperson for M&S said: “Like many other retailers, in certain stores where there have been high incidences of theft we will sometimes limit the number of higher-value items that are on display to deter shoplifters and keep our colleagues and customers safe.

“If a customer wants more of a particular item than is displayed on the shelf, our colleagues are always on hand to help.”

The Co-op has introduced a similar tactic for some of its coffee products, with one Twitter user posting that her local store had ‘dummy’ jars on-shelf.

Each empty product included a sticker which read: “This product is a dummy. Not For Sale. Please ask a member of staff for help.”

A worker responded to the post: “A small number of our stores that are seeing rising crime levels will use product security measures like ‘dummy products’ to help manage the issue.”

Earlier this week, a shopper at Co-op’s Aylesbury branch found that the convenience retailer had extended this measure by locking baby formula in security cases.

A spokesperson told Sky News: “Protecting the safety of our colleagues is a priority and we know shoplifting can be a flashpoint for violence against shopworkers so, whilst this is not a nationwide policy, a decision to implement product security measures at a local level will be made, if a store is experiencing a particular issue.”

Tesco adds security tags to everyday products

In the summer of 2022, many supermarket chains were seen adding security tags, which are typically used for high-value items such as alcohol, to everyday products including cheese and butter as prices skyrocketed.

Last November, an image captured by CornwallLive showed that four-pint milk cartons in a Tesco Extra store in Pool in Cornwall had been individually tagged.

According to the newspaper, a customer at the Tesco store said: “I overheard a member of staff tell a customer that there had been a lot of thefts of milk, and this was their way of trying to stop it.”

Tesco instead claimed this was down to “human error”.

However, some Express stores began placing security tags on packets of chicken earlier this year.

Nisa’s AI technology

Last year, a Nisa store in Virginia Quay in London began using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to minimise shoplifting.

The smart AI tech has helped the retailer cut its losses by 90%.

The software from Veesion can be connected to the existing cameras and security network through the internet, automatically monitoring all the cameras for potential shoplifting activity.

Staff are notified of any suspicious gestures or movements, such as unusual browsing patterns or someone putting an item in their pocket, via a short video clip.

Over time, as staff use the app to confirm or disregard any potentially suspicious activity, the AI will be able to teach itself the difference between a customer putting their mobile phone away and slipping a product from the shelf into their pocket.



1 Comment. Leave new

  • Simon Brand
    July 1, 2023 9:22 am

    What are the Government doing to combat the theft that is going on by the supermarkets ? Having these sham meetings so they can be seen to be doing something while the cartel exploit their fellow human shoppers who need food ? Why don’t RG run a more poignant article based around this, as it seems to be as, if not more, relevant than supermarkets adding measures while some customers seek redress for this exploitation of customers who have little choice in all this.


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