Australian supermarket axes self-serve checkout


A Brisbane supermarket has decided to axe its self-serve checkouts forever due to one very sad reason.

IGA Greenslopes will shut down the modern mechanism for good in favour of good old fashioned manned checkouts.

The controversial change has reportedly been implemented in response to a massive spike in shoplifting, according to a sign in the store.

The move comes as supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have massively ramped up their in-store security measures, which has left some customers feeling frustrated.

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane, QUT retail expert Gary Mortimer explained that shoplifting in Australia was costing retailers about $9 billion each year.

He also noted that smaller retailers like IGA — which are owned and operated independently — do not have the same security measures in place as larger supermarkets, which could make them an “easier target” for shoplifters.

“It’s significant. It’s not just the big supermarkets and the big retailers that are impacted,” he said.

“I think we’re going to see more of this take place where self-service is one of those areas where we do see a significant lift in shop stealing.

“It goes to show that either you do it well and do it the expensive way with the full tech, or you do it with simpler stuff but you risk being exposed to theft.”

In recent months, Coles and Woolworths have implemented a host of new security measures at self-serve checkouts in an effort to combat shoplifting.

These include artificial intelligence, security cameras and even automatic gates that will not open and let you leave if the technology believes you have stolen something.

Meanwhile, Drakes Supermarkets has gone to the extreme lengths of putting expensive cuts of meat in security boxes that are fitted with GPS trackers.

The cost of living crisis appears to be fuelling shoplifting, with a recent survey finding that around 1 in 8 Australians have stolen something in the past year.

Research from Finder suggests that as many as 2.4 million Australians have participated in the petty crime, with five per cent of people having admitted to stealing at the supermarket self checkout.

Slightly fewer (four per cent) were cheating the machines by scanning expensive items as cheaper ones, such as putting an avocado through as a carrot.

Australians have been left reeling from a cost of living crisis which reached its peak in December 2022 when inflation rose by 7.9 per cent.

Though inflation lowered to 6 per cent in June 2023, food remains 7.5 per cent higher than it was a year ago, with Australians spending an average of $740 a month on groceries.

These stats have revealed Australian households are at “breaking point” according to Finder money expert Sarah Megginson.

“The research really shows just how much people are struggling and turning to things that they probably never could have imagined in the past,” she said.

“It really speaks to the fact that people are struggling and the financial counselling hotlines and support services are seeing a totally new demographic come through, people who would have been classed as middle class Australians who have never needed the services before have just been completely caught out by the last 12 months.”

Mortimer agreed that the rising cost of living is likely to blame for an increase in theft.

“There is certainly a correlation between the cost-of-living crisis and increased theft in retail stores be it supermarkets, consumer electronics or discount department stores — it is happening across the board,” he said.

He added that shoplifting could also be “opportunistic” and driven by “frustration” with supermarkets.

“I often hear that mindset around ‘If I have to ring up my own groceries than I am entitled to take something’,” Mortimer explained.

“Often there is this mindset around why we steal. It’s not just criminality, it’s often frustration or it’s an accident or this form of entitlement.”

Supermarket bosses have fronted the Senate this week over the increase in grocery costs, with Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci even being threatened with jail time after he refused to answer questions about the chain’s profitability.

British supermarket chain Booths also recently announced that it would be ditching self-service checkouts in all but two of their 28 stores, joining some Costco and Walmart shops in the US.

Booths managing director Nigel Murray told the BBC that the move was made due to negative customer feedback about the self-serve checkouts.

“Customers have told us over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal,” Murray told the outlet.

News.com.au has reached out to IGA Greenslopes for comment.

Read related topics:Brisbane