Canberra residents have earned the unenviable title of being the most prolific shoplifters at Woolworths, as recent data reveals that Australia’s capital city has the highest average theft rate for the popular supermarket chain.
Among the 15 Woolworths stores in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), high-priced baby formula emerges as one of the most frequently stolen items. The Canberra Times obtained data indicating that over the past year, these stores collectively suffered losses exceeding $1.1 million due to theft.
Experts and social researchers speculate that the rising cost of living may contribute to the surge in shoplifting rates, as reported by the newspaper.
The Woolworths stores in Dickson and at the territory’s airport experienced the highest number of theft incidents last year. In total, there were 5.27 million stolen items, amounting to a value of $16.27 million in Canberra.
The Northern Territory ranked second, but its average store loss was significantly lower compared to the ACT, according to the report.
While states with larger populations, such as New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, recorded higher overall theft numbers, these incidents were spread across a larger number of stores. For instance, Woolworths stores in NSW reported total losses of $217 million, but this figure encompassed 287 stores.
Baby formula stands out as the most coveted item among Australian thieves, with a higher theft rate in Canberra compared to other parts of the country.
In the past year, more than $18,000 worth of baby formula was stolen from Canberra’s stores, more than doubling the average store loss of this product in Victoria.
On average, each of the 15 ACT stores had 739 tins of baby formula stolen, equivalent to over 15 tins per week per store.
According to information on the Woolworths website, the price of baby formula products ranges from $14.50 to $42, depending on the brand and size.
This product was in high demand before and during the pandemic, as evidenced by an incident in July 2019 when an organized group emptied the shelves of a Woolworths store in Adelaide. Footage aired by Nine News at the time showed a group of Asian shoppers rushing in and out of the store, repeatedly buying the maximum allowable limit of two tins. In a sarcastic remark, one member of the group mockedingly asked another, “Oh, you’ve got plenty of babies, plenty of babies, huh?” as they gathered outside with their haul.
A baby formula shortage was also experienced in the United States last year, leading Australia to send 95,000 tins to help alleviate the mounting supply shortage.
It is known that the supermarket giant has implemented several programs to combat retail theft.