Lucy Brown & Nicki Juniper with James Sutherland MP - Waitrose Bracknell (L-R) 2

Source: The John Lewis Partnership

James Sunderland, Conservative MP for Bracknell, met with John Lewis Partnership staff in Bracknell last week to discuss security plans.

Waitrose is aiming to deter shoplifters with ‘love bombing’.

The supermarket is training staff to be “extra attentive, causing thieves to think twice”, including by asking if help is needed at self-checkouts.

The aim is to make would-be thieves more conscious of shopworkers’ presence and therefore give them fewer opportunities to steal. Waitrose said it also hoped the scheme would be good for customer service levels generally.

Having been trialled it in six stores, and seeing postive results, Waitrose is now rolling the training out across its estate. 

The trial had proved particularly effective at countering theft at self-checkouts, for example where shoplifters would fail to scan items, or put them through as cheaper alternatives, Waitrose said. Participating stores had also seen small increases in both the size and value of shoppers’ baskets, which the supermarket said indicated potential shoplifters were being deterred.

“We’ve long been known for our friendly service, but it turns out that the more attentive we are, the less likely people are to steal,” said Waitrose head of security Nicki Juniper.

“It’s a win-win: our customers get a great shopping experience, with partners visibly on hand to help, while the would-be shoplifters are deterred.”

The British Retail Consortium’s latest crime survey found retail thefts were up by 26% last year.

“Shoplifting costs the UK economy over £1bn a year. While it’s a sector-wide issue, we’ve found a very Waitrose way to tackle it,” Juniper said.

“This isn’t just about doing the right thing; cutting these losses could save us millions each year. That’s money we can invest in lowering prices and supporting British farmers – things that really matter.” 

Waitrose has called on government to do more to protect store workers

The BRC’s 2023 Crime Survey Report also found store workers were facing much higher levels of abuse, harassment and assault compared with pre-pandemic levels.

On average there were 867 incidents of violence and abuse reported each day between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022. While this was down from more than 1,300 the same period previously, it was nearly double the 455 reported daily in the same period 2019-2020.

Last week, Waitrose formally joined the BRC in calling for Scottish legislation offering enhanced protection to store workers to be extended to all areas of the UK.

The Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced in 2021, created a new statutory offence to threaten, abuse or assault a retail worker, while they’re carrying out their duties. Anyone convicted could face enhanced fines or a prison sentence if the crime is severe.

James Sunderland, Conservative MP for Bracknell, met with John Lewis Partnership staff, including Juniper, at Waitrose’s Bracknell head office last week to discuss the partnership’s security plans. He pledged to raise awareness about the issue in parliament.

“These are huge employers, not only in my constituency but nationwide, so it’s important that we help them drive down crime, and keep retail workers safe,” Sunderland said.

“I’ll be following up with discussion with my peers in government, and also Thames Valley Police to ensure we are working together to tackle this serious issue and protect people from antisocial behaviour.”