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Sad reason Aussie supermarket axing self-serve checkouts

Shoplifting is costing Aussie retailers about $9 billion each year and supermarkets are taking drastic measures to combat it.

An Aussie supermarket has shut its self-serve checkouts, following a spike in shoplifting. It comes as supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles ramp up their in-store security measures, leaving some customers frustrated.

The IGA in the inner Brisbane suburb of Greenslopes has shut down its self-serve checkouts, reportedly for good. A sign cited a “significant increase in shoplifting” as the reason behind the move.

QUT retail expert Gary Mortimer said shoplifting was costing Aussie retailers about $9 billion each year and was impacting all kinds of businesses.

IGA Greenslopes supermarket
The IGA at Greenslopes has axed its self-serve checkouts for supermarket customers. (Source: Legends IGA Greenslopes)

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“It’s significant. It’s not just the big supermarkets and the big retailers that are impacted,” Mortimer told ABC Radio Brisbane.

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“I think we’re going to see more of this take place where self-service is one of those areas where we do see a significant lift in shop stealing.”

Coles and Woolworths have introduced a raft of new security measures, including artificial intelligence, cameras and automatic gates that won’t open if they think you’ve stolen something, to stop customers from stealing. Meanwhile, Drakes Supermarkets is putting expensive cuts of meat in security boxes with GPS trackers.

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Mortimer noted smaller retailers like IGA — which are owned and operated independently — didn’t have the same security measures in place, which could make them an “easier target” for shoplifters.

“It goes to show that either you do it well and do it the expensive [way] with the full tech, or you do it with simpler stuff but you risk being exposed to theft,” he said.

Yahoo Finance understands the decision to remove self-serve options are made by local store owners. The move is not being rolled out across all IGA stores.

Cost-of-living crisis adding pressure

The cost-of-living crisis is fuelling shoplifting. A recent survey found more than 1 in 10 Aussies had stolen in the 12 months to October as they reached their financial breaking point.

Around five per cent have stolen items at the supermarket self-checkout, the Finder data found, while four per cent admitted to cheating the system by deliberately lying about what they had scanned.

“There is certainly a correlation between the cost-of-living crisis and increased theft in retail stores be it supermarkets, consumer electronics or discount department stores — it is happening across the board,” Mortimer said.

Shoplifting could also be “opportunistic” and driven by “frustration” with the supermarkets, Mortimer said.

“I often hear that mindset around ‘If I have to ring up my own groceries than I am entitled to take something’,” Mortimer said.

“Often there is this mindset around why we steal. It’s not just criminality, it’s often frustration or it’s an accident or this form of entitlement.”

It comes as the supermarket bosses front the Senate this week over supermarket pricing, with Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci threatened with jail time after he refused to answer questions about the chain's profitability.

Overseas supermarkets remove self-checkout systems

British supermarket chain Booths recently announced it was ditching self-serve checkouts in all but two of its 28 stores, joining some Walmart and Costco stores in the US.

Booths managing director Nigel Murray told the BBC the move was due to customer feedback they had received.

“Customers have told us over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal,” Murray said.

Meanwhile, Costco management said “shrink” losses from customer errors, and intentional shoplifting had increased “in part we believe due to the rollout of self-checkout.

Yahoo Finance has contacted IGA Greenslopes for comment.

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