Coles rolls out new measures to fight out-of-control shoplifting

To no-one’s surprise there has been a rise in shoplifting from supermarkets, and Coles is taking drastic measures to rein in thefts.

According to 7News, Coles has reported a 20 per cent surge in stock loss. 

“It’s everything from organised crime, people stealing things and putting them on marketplaces online, to a wider range of opportunistic or petty theft,” says Coles chief operating officer Matt Swindells.

Anyone else amused by a Mr Swindells talking about theft?

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Mr Swindells says there has been an increase in theft across every store and department.

He attributes part of the problem to the cost-of-living crisis and he ‘promises’ to put on more security. ‘Promise’ sounds like he’s rewarding shoppers. Not sure how that works.

Body cameras

As part of a range of measures, Coles is equipping some staff and security with body cameras in 30 ‘high-risk’ stores.  

Coles transformation general manager Sophie Wong told 7News the company was adapting to an increase in retail crime, as well as growing physical and verbal abuse of staff.

“(It enables) us to understand in real time what is happening to our team members and the community as well,” Ms Wong says.

She adds that the cameras comply with Australian privacy laws and regulations and that Coles will not hold onto the vision “for any longer than a few weeks”.

Coles is also buying ‘duress’ watches that can alert police directly about a dangerous situation. 

“I think the broader benefit of having the watch or the body-worn camera is more for the team member to know they have devices at their disposal if they need it,” Ms Wong says.

Security guards

Coles will also employ more security guards, roll out gates that stop consumers from exiting a store without paying, and implement trolley locks, which prevent shoppers from filling a trolley and then leaving the store.

Woolworths began trialling body cams in 2021 and now use them in more than 120 stores. 

“The use of these cameras has seen a substantial reduction in the amount of abusive and physical incidents our stores’ team members have faced,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“Nobody deserves to be abused at work, so it’s important we continue to seek and expand measures to help keep our team members safe.”

The retailer has placed signage in each store to inform customers the cameras are in use.

7News reported that as well as common shoplifting, there had been a rise in organised rackets stealing to order for the black market.

Baby formula, high-end cuts of meat and beauty products were at the top of the grocery theft list.

“The technology is incredibly useful. What we’ve seen … is that people police have not been able to identify (are put) onto the Crime Stoppers website, and we have very good outcomes in terms of now identifying those people and holding them to account for their crimes,” SA Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval told 7News.

Organised crime

“Here we are talking organised retail crime, so this is the serious end of town in terms of shop theft.”

Dare I suggest a lot of this can be traced back to supermarkets’ increasing reliance on self-checkouts?

The National Retail Association claims retail theft, robbery and vandalism costs Australian businesses an estimated $9 billion a year and only 20 per cent of retail crime is ever reported to the police.

As to the last part of that sentence, anyone who has ever reported a retail crime to police knows they rarely attend or follow up for shoplifting. And as for any sustained theft by staff, they usually recommend civil action. 

Have you ever seen a shoplifter? Did you report it? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Innovative tips for saving money in the kitchen

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Interesting the media articles don’t (seem to)mention loses from Aldi. A key difference, Aldi has an active bag check at checkouts. Also, untill recently, did not have self serve checkouts, which I think are still only a small number of stores where they exist.

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