The Co-op is ramping up its efforts to limit the spiralling impact of shoplifting in its stores by extending a trial of ‘dummy display packaging’.

The packaging will be used across higher-value products that are frequently targeted by criminals for resale. These include coffee, washing powder and laundry gel. In stores where the Co-op has identified a local issue, shoppers buying these items will have to take the dummy display case to the till, where it is exchanged for the actual product.

Co-op has so far used this anti-theft tactic on a limited basis but said it now expected it to become a more familiar feature in retail.

Last month, the society reported record levels of crime which in some cases amounted to looting. Its latest figures revealed a 35% increase in crime, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour at it stores in the six months to June. This equated to 1,000 incidents a day.

“Crime in many communities is increasing, and it is known that repeat and prolific offenders and local organised criminal gangs are driving serious incidents of brazen and violent theft in stores. It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and often a flashpoint for attacks and abuse towards our colleagues,” said Co-op director of operations Kate Graham.

Co-op dummy packs sign

“Co-op continues to invest significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe. This includes extending our use of dummy display cases to deter the incidents of ‘bulk-shoplifting’ or ‘looting’, as it has been described, where criminals sweep products off shelves for resale.

“While we are doing all we can, we also need the police to play their part. Too often, forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams, and criminals operate in communities without any fear of consequences.”

The latest move forms part of a £200m investment by the Co-op in crime prevention in recent years. As well as the latest dummy packaging rollout, measures it has adopted include interactive and remote-monitored CCTV; body-worn cameras; communication headsets for frontline colleagues; covert and non-covert guarding, and GPS tracked security cases.