Brisbane Supermarket Ditches Self-Serve Checkouts

A Brisbane supermarket, IGA Greenslopes, has made a decisive move. It is biding farewell to its self-serve checkouts for good and returning to the tried-and-true manned checkouts. The reason behind this shift is a concerning one—a significant increase in shoplifting.

According to reports displayed in the store, the decision stems from a notable surge in theft. This change comes amidst heightened security measures adopted by major supermarket chains like Woolworths and Coles. These measures, while aimed at curbing theft, have left some customers feeling frustrated.

Gary Mortimer, a retail expert from QUT, highlighted the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that shoplifting costs Australian retailers a staggering $9 billion annually. Smaller retailers like IGA, lacking the robust security measures of their larger counterparts, find themselves particularly vulnerable to theft.

Mortimer predicts a potential trend where retailers either invest heavily in high-tech security or risk falling victim to theft. Recently, Coles and Woolworths have deployed various security measures, such as artificial intelligence, security cameras, and even automatic gates, to deter shoplifting at self-serve checkouts.

Drakes Supermarkets took an unconventional approach by securing expensive cuts of meat with GPS-tracked security boxes. The surge in shoplifting seems to be exacerbated by a cost of living crisis, with a recent survey revealing that around 1 in 8 Australians admitted to stealing in the past year.

Factors contributing to this include inflation, which peaked at 7.9% in December 2022, and persistently high food prices. Finder’s research suggests that as many as 2.4 million Australians have participated in shoplifting, with some resorting to tactics like scanning expensive items as cheaper ones.

Sarah Megginson, a money expert at Finder, notes the strain on Australian households, with many turning to services they never imagined needing before. Mortimer concurs, attributing the rise in theft to the cost of living crisis and frustrations with supermarkets.

Supermarket executives have been summoned before the Senate to address the increase in grocery costs. Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci even faced the threat of jail time for refusing to disclose the chain’s profitability.

This move away from self-service checkouts isn’t unique to Australia. British supermarket chain Booths and some US retailers like Costco and Walmart are also scaling back on self-serve options. Nigel Murray, managing director of Booths, cited negative customer feedback as a driving factor behind the decision.

In essence, the shift away from self-service checkouts underscores the complex interplay between security concerns, economic pressures, and customer satisfaction in the retail landscape.

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