UK retailer Co-op has said it is extending its trial of anti-theft, empty, ‘dummy display packaging’ to help curb bulk-shoplifting in its stores.

The empty packaging will continue to be used for targeted higher-value products, on its shelves, in stores where crime is being driven by persistent offenders. This includes coffee, higher-value chocolates, washing powder and laundry gels.

To purchase, shoppers take the dummy display case to the till where it is exchanged for the actual product. Co-op has previously used the anti-theft packaging in a limited number of stores, and expects it to ‘continue to become a more familiar feature in retailing’

The decision comes as industry reports show that almost two-thirds (63%) of crime is driven by repeat and prolific offenders, with drug or alcohol addictions and, local organised criminal gangs, among the main drivers of offending.

Co-op previously revealed it had seen record levels of crime, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour with almost 1,000 incidents each day in the six months to June 2023, a 35% year-on-year increase.

The convenience retailer also warned that this level of out-of-control, ‘consequence-less’ crime is unsustainable and could even see some communities become a no-go area for local stores, with many Police forces not prioritising retail crime.

A freedom of information (FOI) request revealed on average, 71% of serious retail crime is not responded to by Police, and Co-op is calling on all police forces and crime commissioners to target prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs to reverse the existing environment where they operate without fear of being caught or charged.

Source: Co-op

Kate Graham, Director of Operations at Co-op, said: “Crime in many communities is increasing, and it is known that repeat and prolific offenders and, local organised criminal gangs are driving serious incidents of brazen and violent theft in stores.

“It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and often a flashpoint for attacks and abuse towards our colleagues. Co-op continues to invest significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe. This includes extending our use of dummy display cases to deter the incidents of ‘bulk-shoplifting’ or, ‘looting’, as it has been described, where criminals sweep products off shelves for re-sale.

“While we are doing all we can, we also need the police to play their part as too often, Forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams and criminals operate in communities without any fear of consequences.”

In June, Co-op said it will ‘deliver’ cashback rewards for its members and their communities, as part of a first deal of its kind for Uber Eats in the UK. In recent years, it has invested more than £200 million in  colleague and community safety to counter criminal behaviour while it uses a range of targeted measures to deter criminal behaviour.

This includes interactive and remote monitored CCTV, body-worn cameras which can send real time audio and visual footage to its security operations centre, communication headsets for frontline colleagues, covert and non-covert guarding, and GPS tracked security cases. The latest additon – anti-theft ‘dummy display cases’ – are expected to become a more familiar feature in retailing.UK retailer Co-op extends use of anti-theft ‘dummy display packaging’

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Image source: Co-op