Retailers praise dummy packaging for cutting shoplifting

Shop owners are considering the effectiveness of dummy packaging, and finding ways to deter thieves themselves

CCTV screen shop security theft shoplifting

Retailers have supported the use of empty packaging on shelves, yet question whether using security tags as a way to catch thieves could endanger staff.

Co-op and Spar branches have extended their anti-theft tactics and empty ‘dummy display packaging’ to prevent shoplifting following rising rates across the UK.

Co-op has said it is using empty packaging for higher value products on shelves, including coffee, higher value chocolates, washing powder and laundry gels. The chain has also placed security tags on items including steak and cheese.

Retailers of smaller stores have not adopted these tactics on a widespread basis, yet have shown support for the move.

Maqsood Akhtar, from Blackthorn News and Food in Rotherham, said he could understand the use of dummy packaging, with it being a “sign of the times”, but said the security tags are “a waste of time”.

“I don’t think the deterrent of the security tags will work. These people know what they’re doing. If a tag [alerts the alarm], is a member staff going to run out after someone? I wouldn’t tell my staff members to do that. Is it worth it?”

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However, he noted that empty packaging will work, particularly with serial shoplifters, who will “think twice, or target someone else”.

Meanwhile, Harj Dhasee, of Mickleton Village Stores in Gloucestershire, said dummy packaging and security tags are the “only way business can survive”.

“Those that come in and see that will ultimately be deterred,” he said, adding that although his store is a village one, he has taken steps to remove baby food from display having experienced this item being regularly stolen. 

“Hopefully [the dummy packaging] helps shoplifting rates, but it [sometimes] pushes the problem elsewhere. Police aren’t doing anything about [the thefts], and people know that.”

Police representatives of regions in England and Wales with the worst increases in shoplifting recently outlined how they intend to protect shop owners

Hitesh Pandya, owner of Tonis Newsagents, Kent, has taken a different approach to preventing shoplifting, by physically moving products to behind a PVC screen, which his store originally made use of during the pandemic.

“I had £450-worth of Pokemon cards stolen last week – they’re not like coffee jars,” he said. “A box is worth £50-£60. We’ve had some stolen right in front of us.

“People are much more upfront with stealing [now]. Staff feel bad about it, it encourages more to shoplift if you don’t do anything about it, and thieves know there is nothing to stop them. We’ve moved the Pokemons, we’ve had to put them behind a screen – we still want customers to have access and visibility. This is an extension of what’s been happening in supermarkets for years.”

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