A supermarket plagued by shoplifters has resorted to putting empty ‘display packs’ on the shelves to prevent constant thefts.
The Co-op in Redcliffe, Bristol, is targeted several times a day – often by the same offenders disguising themselves to avoid detection, according to staff.
Now the store is displaying empty coffee jars and detergent packs, which customers have to request from a member of staff if they want to buy a full pack.
Bosses have also restricted the number of meats and cheese on the shelves, with only one steak and two packs of premium bacon or Cathedral City cheese allowed.
Cunning staff are also cutting the bottom out of confectionery boxes so that anyone who attempts to take the whole box will see the bars tumble to the floor.
A staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Most customers are oblivious to it.
“Affluent office workers come in for their lunch each day, and they don’t have a clue what goes on.”
The store is currently only displaying empty coffee jars, ranging from £2.27 Co-op own brand ‘rich roast’ to the £8.48 Kenco premium option.
In the detergent aisle, 12 empty display packs fill the shelves, including an £8.09 Ariel gel and £3 Bold product.
If customers wish to buy the items they must ask a member of staff to fetch a full one from the stock room.
The staff member added: “We only put out one steak and two Irresistible bacon packs at any one time’.
“You’re not going to be picking up the whole box unless you’ve really got the Munchies or you’re nicking it.
“People nick these things because they can sell them on easily for a decent value.
“They often go for meat as well, which is why we only put out one steak and two Irresistible bacon packs at any one time.
“We have a ‘limiter’ on the Cathedral City cheese too, with just two packs out. The only cheese the shoplifters don’t tend to go for is the Co-op own brand.”
To combat thefts of whole boxes of chocolate bars, staff are now cutting holes in the bottom of them.
The employee said: “We had a lady in yesterday who picked up a whole box of Munchies. They all fell through the hole and we heard them hit the floor.
“Now, you’re not going to be picking up the whole box unless you’ve really got the Munchies or you’re nicking it, so I confronted her and I was able to get the sweets back.”
Shoplifters have even taken to changing their appearance so they are not recognised by staff, the employee revealed.
He said: “We know the usual suspects. Recently a woman came in whom I had asked to leave a couple of months prior.
“This time she had a wig on and she came in when it was busy, but I still recognised her. I shouted, ‘Oi – get out.’
“You develop a bit of a sixth sense for these people. You can see their intentions in their body language.”
The worker says that company policy often prevents them from tackling shoplifters, and the police are too busy to attend reports of shoplifting.
He added: “Police do not investigate most of the thefts because they are low value.
“We understand that, but if you think about why these people are doing it, they will do a resale to fund a quick hit of whatever drug they are using.
“Think of all the addiction issues we are facing in this city. This is where it starts.”
A spokesman for Southern Co-op said: “Along with other retailers, we have experienced an increase in retail crime.
“Where appropriate, we consider a range of security measures to make us less of a target for shoplifters to protect our colleagues and our business.”
An Avon and Somerset police spokesman said: “When there is an incident of a shop theft where an offender has been detained by a retailer we will always make every effort to attend if resources are available.
We have focused our approach on crime reduction and working in partnership with retailers through schemes such as Shop Watch.”
He added the force is “unfortunately working in a climate of funding cuts and therefore a reduction in workforce in terms of police officers and police staff”.
The spokesman continued: “Prioritisation of crimes, such as serious sexual offences, child sexual exploitation, high risk missing people, drugs and modern slavery or human trafficking means we have to make tough decisions about getting the right resource with the right skills to all requests for our services which require a response.”