Co-op reports record shoplifting figures as theft threat broadens

Supermarket chain Co-op has seen crime, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour increase by over a third year-on-year, with over 175,000 incidents recorded in the first six months of the year.

Echoing the warning issued by fellow retailer John Lewis last month of a shoplifting “epidemic”, the Co-op said that theft and fraud had cost the business £33m in the first six months of the year, with retail crime incidents at its stores up 35%.

Matt Hood, Co-op managing director, explained that theft is no longer concentrated on high value goods such as alcohol or tobacco as had been the case in the past, but that items such as meat, baby food, beauty products and confectionary were also increasingly being targeted. He said: “It’s does give us more of a challenge because it is spread across the store.”

In an attempt to tackle the issue, the Co-op, which is the UK’s seventh largest supermarket chain, has invested in AI cameras plus covert and non-covert security guards. However, Hood adds that police need to do more to improve their response to such crime, particularly in targeting prolific offenders and the gangs responsible for looting incidents.

A survey by the British Retail Consortium earlier this year revealed the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76bn in 2021/22. £953m was lost to customer theft, with 8m incidents of theft over the year. Retailers also spent £715m on crime prevention in 2021/22.

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