Leading suppliers have refused calls from shop owners to provide display versions of their lines in a bid to tackle theft in store.

Retailers had requested ‘dummy’ versions of core lines in heavily targeted ambient categories such as coffee, household and personal care that could be swapped for real stock at the counter.

However, leading personal care, household and coffee suppliers refused to confirm the move. One anonymous supplier claimed to betterRetailing it was not financially viable, and said it is the retailer’s responsibility to tackle shoplifting, not theirs.

Last week, it was revealed that Southern Co-op was using dummy stock to combat crime in its most affected stores.

A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “For this particular security measure, it is useful to assess what a store’s high-risk items are and what can be done to make them less of a target.”

The company also confirmed it created its display versions, stating: “We do not work with any brands to implement this security measure.”

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Dave Taylor, of Premier Bodnant convenience store in Towyn, Conwy, said: “We are considering stopping selling the larger baby milk formulas due to theft. The amount is unbelievable, and often causes friction when confronting people.

“I would love to see the manufacturers come up with some display-only dummy products.”

Budgens retailer Adam Hogwood agreed, and said suppliers should look to spirit suppliers for inspiration. “A long time ago, we had a tower display on spirits, but over the first three days, we lost more stock than we sold.

“Diageo now provides us with cards to take to the counter, which means we can cross-merchandise and keep stock safe.”

Pernod Ricard UK also supports stores facing shoplifting issues. At last year’s Local Shop Summit in Twickenham, the company displayed dummy boxes and cards, which are available to any retailers in high-crime areas, and can be used to create displays without putting bottles on the shop floor.

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Customers can then take the box to the counter and receive the bottle, minimising the risk of shoplifting.

Sid Sidhu, owner of St John’s Budgens in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, urged caution for stores considering using display units instead of the real thing on shelves as they would introduce a barrier to shoppers. He said benefits are likely to be outweighed by lost sales. “I understand the anguish others go through, but this would be counterproductive,” he said.

Other multiples have also taken recent steps to reduce customer access to high value lines in stores.

Iceland stores in high-risk areas refurbished this year. They now use locked alcohol display cabinets and ‘smart shelves’ that alert staff when a high-value item has been lifted from a shelf.

Jacob Douwe Egberts, Unilever, P&G and Danone all failed to provide a response.

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