Coles is launching technology to closely monitor shopper activities

Coles is intensively implementing new technology to monitor shoppers from the moment they step into the store.

The supermarket chain plans to employ overhead cameras, cart locks, advanced gates, and, surprisingly, fog machines to counteract the growing theft issue. Matt Swindells, the Chief Operating Officer of Coles, stated emphatically, “If you’re stealing, we’ll catch you.”

This new approach is likely to make supermarkets feel more like fortified banks or high-security prisons. Upon entering, cameras begin monitoring customers, documenting their movements and selections. Advanced cameras at self-checkouts observe all scanned and bagged items. Furthermore, automatic gates will lock and sound alarms for anyone attempting to leave with unscanned products. To deter break-ins, fog machines and carts that lock when tampered with are also being added.

These stringent measures aim to address the 20% increase in theft, costing retailers an astonishing $9 billion annually. Following a six-month pilot, the technology will be assertively implemented across Australia in the coming quarter, Swindells mentioned.

Coles’ goal is clear: making theft impossible. This follows their recent announcement of equipping staff with body cameras due to a surge in violent incidents against them. A representative from Coles emphasised that while most customers are honest, these precautions target those who aren’t. They reiterated the importance of team and customer safety, highlighting the various security strategies already in place.

In 2021, Woolworths introduced similar security initiatives, receiving positive feedback. However, there are growing concerns about increasing surveillance. AI checkout cameras in Coles and Woolworths have faced backlash, with many customers finding constant monitoring unacceptable.

Dr Monique Mann, a senior criminology lecturer at Deakin University, suggested Coles explore alternatives to intensive surveillance. She pointed out the socio-economic factors contributing to theft and aggression and highlighted the significant profits these retailers are making amidst living cost crises.

Coles recently reported a $1.1bn profit for the fiscal year yet experienced a 20% surge in theft-related stock losses. The firm emphasised its commitment to tackling this challenge, stating a strong focus on tech investments in its annual report.

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