Woolworths rolls out new anti-theft measure amid supermarket crackdown

The new trial of the supermarket checkout sensor technology will take place in five Woolworths stores.

Woolworths has rolled out its latest security measure to tackle the "increase in retail crime" across its supermarkets.

The retailer is trialling birds-eye view sensors and automatic gates in the express lane, and at self-checkouts to try to catch any customers trying to steal items.

Launching in their Fairfield store in Sydney on Wednesday, the technology will also be trialled in two other locations in NSW and three in Victoria in the coming months.

An aerial photo of how the sensor picks up on customers.
Woolworths is trialling a new sensor and gate technology in their self-checkouts and express lanes. Source: Woolworths

How does it work?

Yahoo News Australia understands the sensors attached to the ceiling will give customers a digital ID depicted as a dot — not clearly visible customers. The dot representing a customer remains red until they've paid, at which point it turns green, allowing them to leave through the gate at the checkout.

Customers will be unidentifiable throughout the whole process and each digital ID will be deleted as soon as the respective customer exits the store.

If they have changed their mind about purchasing anything, they will have to exit elsewhere, as the checkout gate won't open for them.

Woolworths said the new technology will help reduce stock loss and act as an additional measure to keep "customers and the team safe".

"All retailers are experiencing an increase in retail crime, and we’re no exception," a Woolworths spokesman told Yahoo News Australia.

A photo of the sensor hanging from a ceiling.
The sensor technology will not be able to identify the customer, instead picking up on their 'digital ID' represented as a dot. Source: Woolworths

"We continue to look at additional measures that will help reduce retail crime, however we do understand that most customers do the right thing at the checkout. This is one of a number of initiatives, both covert and overt, to minimise instances of retail crime in store networks across the group."

Coles also trialling smart gate technology

Coles is also seeing a rise in supermarket theft, confirming "hundreds of thieves" are caught weekly. It is also trialing the smart gate technology.

A photo of the smart gates at a Woolworths store.
The gates are already stationed at Woolworths' Fairfield store in Sydney and will also be trialled at five other locations in the coming months. Source: Woolworths

"Coles has a range of security measures in place to reduce theft from our stores including CCTV, electronic article surveillance (EAS) and in some stores, new smart gate technology that automatically opens as customers make payment for their products," a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia this month.

"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."

From 2021 to 2022, store theft rose in NSW by 23.7 per cent — the fastest year-on-year increase since records began in 1995.

While Queensland had the highest monthly rate of shop stealing on record this January, according to publicly available police data. Neither state's data specified which retailers reported theft.

Signage will be located at the front of the Woolworths stores and at the entry to our self-serve checkout area to notify customers of the trial, which will be in Fairfield, Moorabbin, Millers Junction, Woodgrove (Vic), Wentworthville and Randwick Metro.

with Reuters

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