Waitrose coffee

Source: Waitrose

The retailer offers free hot drinks to members of its MyWaitrose loyalty scheme

The John Lewis Partnership is to begin offering police officers free hot drinks and use of staff canteens as part of efforts to discourage theft in stores.

Under the offer, police officers will now be able to claim free tea or coffee from drinks machines in Waitrose and John Lewis stores, providing they bring their own disposable cup. They’ll also be able to claim discounted food from JLP Partner dining rooms, which they can also use during their break.

Some John Lewis and Waitrose stores had already “mentioned” the offer informally to local police forces. However, the partnership said it had shared the policy formally with the Police Federation in response to a surge in crime levels and worker abuse in stores.

It comes alongside a wider programme of measures introduced across Waitrose and John Lewis stores aimed at preventing crime taking place. The measures include an increase in the amount of CCTV cameras, bolder signage in stores and the rollout of body-worn cameras in stores.

The partnership’s chairman Sharon White has also written to the home secretary Suella Braverman and the justice secretary Alex Chalk calling for enhanced legislation that would see tougher sentences for repeat and violent offenders.

According to the most recent Crime Survey from the BRC, the number of thefts reported by retailers increased 26% over the past year. The survey also showed that store workers are generally facing much higher levels of abuse, harassment and assault compared with pre-pandemic levels.

“Retailers across the board are seeing a rise in crime,” said JLP head of security Nicki Juniper. “This isn’t driven by a need to put food on the table, but rather professional shoplifters stealing for greed over need.

“And it’s not just shoplifting. Since the pandemic, we’ve also seen a rise in aggression towards our partners.

“During the pandemic, retail workers were applauded for working on the frontlines, now they’re being threatened at work. It’s completely unacceptable; nobody should be treated like that at work, especially in a career like retail.” 

The partnership has also been working to improve training for staff, and hired more security guards. It includes the rollout of a prevention technique it termed ‘love bombing’ across Waitrose stores in July.

The idea is that by improving visibility in stores, for example by a partner offering to help, it minimises the opportunities for someone to commit theft. Waitrose said the technique had been particularly effective at discouraging theft via self-checkout scanners.

“There’s a common myth that retailers aren’t able to stop shoplifters,” Juniper said. “While we never want our partners to put themselves in danger, we’ve upped our security staff across John Lewis and Waitrose – including those who are specially trained to detain offenders.”