Australian supermarkets are experiencing a surge in shoplifting, some admit — and it's thought that tougher economic conditions, such as increasing grocery prices and growing housing costs, are contributing. The rise in supermarket theft is is an industry-wide problem, a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
The major retailer says it is "regularly working with police to reduce shoplifting" in its stores. It confirmed "hundreds of thieves" are caught every week.
"We have observed an increase in theft which is an issue affecting all retailers across Australia and internationally, and one that we will continue to address," the spokesperson reply to said. "While most of our customers do the right thing, unfortunately, a small number don’t".
How do supermarkets minimise theft
Woolworths and Aldi failed to confirm to Yahoo if they've also seen an increase in customers not paying for grocery items. But both continue to roll out theft prevention initiatives in their stores, they said.
Woolworths said it uses a number of initiatives to help reduce retail crime and keep team members safe. However, would not provide further detail.
In June last year, Woolworths adamantly dismissed claims it used face recognition in its stores after a screenshot of a training module circulated online, claiming Woolworths uses "facial mapping to identify thieves".
Similar technology was spotted in a Sydney Aldi store last month but a spokesperson confirmed it does not use facial recognition or AI technology. "We have theft prevention mechanisms in all our stores such as CCTV," Aldi said.
Coles confirmed it too has "a range of security measures in place to reduce theft". One such method is employing a "large team of plain-clothes loss prevention officers who are catching hundreds of thieves every week".
Coles also uses "CCTV, product protection, target hardening, and electronic article surveillance (EAS)". "Additionally, there has been the installation of front entry gates and glass balustrading entry in some stores as well as trolley wheel locks," a spokesperson added.
Growing nationwide trend in supermarket theft
In October last year, Tasmania had seen a 30 per cent increase in supermarket shoplifting. Tasmania Police Inspector Nathan Johnston said that rising cost of living and homelessness were contributing factors.
In March, it was reported store theft rose 23.7 per cent in NSW from 2021 to 2022. Meanwhile, Queensland had the highest monthly rate of shop stealing on record this January, Reuters reported.
A retail worker in Victoria says she's seeing more and more theft, but now Sandra Sutera, a bottle shop manager at IGA, fears "it's not safe". Sandra told 9News shoppers are regularly caught "putting things in their pockets [and] down their pants".
"You get good people that are doing silly things," she said. "Some people are too proud to ask for money and then they steal and it's really sad."
Australian Retailers Association chief industry affairs officer Fleur Brown also confirmed "a steady increase" in retail crime resulting in "a significant impact on their bottom line".
Huge increase in supermarket spend
Aussie households, on average, are spending a massive $1,924 more on groceries a year and 78 per cent of Australians have been forced to cut back on their spending just to cope with crippling inflation.
Finder money expert Sarah Megginson previously told Yahoo the cost of living crisis was putting a lot of pressure on food budgets. "Households are facing some very tough times, and escalating grocery costs are an extra burden,” she said.
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