Supermarket forced to display empty decoy Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes in bid to deter shoplifting gangs

28 September 2023, 22:51

The Co-op has resorted to displaying empty Ferrero Rocher boxes
The Co-op has resorted to displaying empty Ferrero Rocher boxes. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Co-op is having to display dummy boxes of chocolates that must be exchanged for the real product at the tills to stop shoplifting.

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Ferrero Rocher boxes are being emptied so they cannot be swiped from the shelves at one store in south London.

Empty Nescafe jars were also spotted at the outlet, while tins of John West tuna were locked away in secure cases.

The drastic measures come amid a spate of shoplifting which has seen staff attacked with hypodermic needles at Iceland while Sainsbury's has introduced barriers that require a receipt to let customers out.

Read more: Halfords worker 'gets blamed' after suffering stroke following 'appalling' attack by shoplifters

Kate McCrae Graham, director of operations at the Co-op, told MailOnline: "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 the unacceptable attacks and abuse towards my colleagues.

Chocolates are being kept away from their dummy boxes
Chocolates are being kept away from their dummy boxes. Picture: Alamy

"Co-op continues to invest significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe. This includes the latest CCTV; body-worn cameras, undercover guarding and, extending our use of dummy - anti-theft - display cases to deter the incidents of 'bulk-shoplifting' or, 'looting', as it has been described."

There are fears shoplifting has become an organised crime, with gangs dedicating themselves stealing from shops.

On a less organised level, a TikTok video called for a mass looting in Oxford Street during the summer, forcing police to descend on London's shopping district.

Everyday items like washing powder are being locked up.

Stores are bringing in security guards and facial recognition systems to stop theft, as they believe serial shoplifters are on the prowl.

Iceland boss on shoplifting

Ten retailers are planning to bring in "Project Pegasus" - a system where they pay police to scan shoplifters' faces through the Police National Database, which uses facial recognition technology.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and the Co-op are among those taking part in the £600,000 scheme they will help fund.

Retailers have called for police to do more as they say too many thefts are going unpunished.

They also warn it is not a victimless crime. Richard Walker, the boss of Iceland, said serious incidents against his staff had never been higher amid a spate of thefts from the shelves.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that raiders are organising themselves into shoplifting gangs as the crime is becoming increasingly organised and deadly.

"This is no longer about the petty theft - this is about serious violence against our store colleagues by shoplifters which sadly is becoming more and more of an occurrence," Walker said earlier in September.

"Weapons deployed to reinforce these threats are things like knives, screwdrivers, hammers, hypodermic needles.

"No-one should have to go through this."