The deal, announced at the weekend, allows on-duty officers who bring a reusable cup to Waitrose and John Lewis stores to receive free coffee. The retailer hopes the increased police presence were deter thieves.
Susan Connolly, owner of Spar Pennings Road in Tidworth, Wiltshire, does not have an active police presence in her area, and fears the move could “push the theft somewhere else”.
“You’ll find [shoplifting at] Waitrose decreases” while a “neighbour” close by sees an increase, she explained.
Another retailer, who asked not to be named, accused the supermarket’s scheme of helping it to unfairly gain a “greater share of public service”. They claimed that independent shops already receive less support than supermarkets, and the new scheme would only grow this gap.
In contrast, Avtar Sidhu, of Budgens Kenilworth in Warwickshire, called it “the right move” for all stores, and pointed out that this strategy is “nothing new”, with many independent retailers using the strategy for a long while.
He told Better Retailing there were “20 or 30 places” selling coffee nearby, but that it’s “on the house” in his store, helping him to maintain links with local officers.
Stores embracing alternative crime prevention tactics
Waitrose is far from alone in looking for new ways to tackle shoplifting, which is up by 24% year on year in England and Wales.
Connolly said her store partakes in “quirky ways” to deter shoplifters, and has teamed up with Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s in an attempt to catch a “fairly prolific [thief] going around”, posted CCTV facial recognition on social media to catch culprits, and teamed up with the local school to tackle children stealing from the shop.
Sidhu does not have an active police station in the area, but does benefit from having PCSOs nearby to patrol the area, to whom he offers free coffee.
“I’m sure a lot of good independent retailers have cottoned on to this and have been doing it beforehand.
“It’s a very low-cost option and [will] encourage [police] to show a higher presence within their vicinity. People that look at targeting your store [for theft] will see there’s more risk in that.”
Read more retail crime news and advice