Supermarkets are increasing surveillance as shoplifting increases. credit: canva
Security gates, scanners, and bag checks. It sounds like airport security – but could this be the future of your weekly supermarket shop?
A branch of Tesco has drawn attention by asking all shoppers to show their receipts before leaving.
The trial policy – the latest in a series anti-theft measures introduced by supermarkets – was temporarily brought in at a Tesco Extra in Shoreham, West Sussex, last weekend. It mimics similar policies in place at branches of Sainsbury’s and Aldi.
There were around eight million incidents of shoplifting in the 12 months to March 2023, according to data from the British Retail Consortium. Police recorded 339,206 cases in the same period, a 24% increase on the previous year.
Why is shoplifting on the rise?
Retailers have previously condemned shoplifters, claiming that they are motivated by “greed over need”.
But campaigners disagree, warning that high food prices are leaving people with little choice but to steal.
The cost of some basic food items has soared by a third in just two years. Milk (36.4%), cheese (35.2%), and butters and spreads (32.2%) have been particularly badly hit, research by consumer advocacy body Which? suggests.
Overall, food prices have skyrocketed by almost 15% in the last year.
Laurence Guinness, the chief executive of the Childhood Trust, says he had seen children as young as seven resort to taking food.
“One young man, 15, told me he stole formula for his baby sister to help his mother out,” Guinness told the Big Issue earlier this month.
“He complained he had to go further and further away from his home because the local shops knew him. He said some of the security guards turned a blind eye because they lived on the same estate as him.”
How else are supermarkets increasing surveillance?
Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s introduced receipt scanners at several stores. Aldi and Morrisons have done the same.
Sainsbury’s insisted to The Big Issue that additional security measures keep prices low and protect staff and shoppers.
“We were the first retailer to introduce colleague worn cameras in 2018 to protect our team,” a spokesperson said.
“We have also increased the number of security officers in our stores this year and use measures to deter criminal activity like our in store detectives and security doors.”
Not everyone’s happy with the additional measures.
“If Sainsburys don’t trust customers then it has a problem,” one social media user said.
“This is so rude! If @Tesco don’t trust shoppers to scan all their goods they should have more staff to serve people!,” wrote PaulaLondon.
Last month, retailers Waitrose and John Lewis started offering free coffees to uniformed police officers. The move was a bid to increase security presence and make thieves “think twice” about stealing goods.
And the dialled-up surveillance isn’t just about shoplifting. Supermarkets are increasingly exploiting the cost of living crisis to pressure shoppers to ‘hand over their data’ in return for club card discounts.
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