Opinion: Honest customers in Bury St Edmunds are paying the price of shoplifting epidemic
How do you feel about enhanced security measures at shops to help combat shoplifting?
This is a question I have been asking myself since my colleague Mariam spoke out against measures employed by some well-known retailers – Is Aldi supermarket in Bury St Edmunds right to introduce security checks at the till?
Mariam was unhappy about supermarket Aldi checking customers’ reusable bags before scanning their shopping, while her husband was rattled after overhearing a walkie talkie blaring his description as staff were told to ‘be aware’ of him in Sports Direct.
Admittedly, I would not have been cheered to hear myself described as a potential thief, but there is a flip side to all this.
Security guards and the Shop Watch scheme are not new in Bury St Edmunds.
There are occasions I have walked around a shop and felt the eyes of an employed security guard on me.
However – despite concluding I must look like a shifty customer – my inner monologue has uttered the words: “Let them look. I have nothing to hide and a bag search would prove it.”
And so I have gone about my business, hoping the guard in question will catch the real shoplifters in action.
Because, of course, the people who ultimately pay the price of shoplifting are the honest customers. We have to pay inflated prices for our goods to cover the huge stock losses being incurred by businesses across the country.
Whether shoplifting has reached epidemic levels in Bury or not, if you are buying from a national chain then you are paying more to cover the cost of thousands of pounds of stock walking out through the shop doors, or the wages of security guards employed to help stem the tide of theft.
And if you think it does not happen here, think again.
Earlier this year I placed a click and collect online order from a major High Street brand.
After collecting the order I set all the alarms blaring as I left the shop.
I headed back to the desk (I was reluctant to continue shopping elsewhere and trigger alarms across town) so we could establish the cause.
The jumper and coat I had purchased were free of electronic tags, however when the assistant shook the Wellington boots I had ordered for my daughter at least half a dozen tags came tumbling out.
Apparently, shoplifters walk around the store with de-tagging devices, stuff the tags in items such as wellies and then walk out with their ill-gotten gains.
I was agog.
“Is shoplifting a big problem here in Bury?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” came the reply. “We find these tags hidden everywhere.”
Then, just this week, I was driving home along Tayfen Road in the usual slow-moving traffic.
As I looked to the left I saw a fashionably-dressed pedestrian. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, until something on the side of the gentleman's shoes caught my eye: A shop tag swinging wildly with his every step.
I then noticed another tag hanging out of his sweater’s neckline.
Given the tracksuit bottoms matched the sweater, I could only conclude they were also likely to be new.
Had the pedestrian paid for his outfit and had simply forgotten to remove the tags? That is a question I can’t answer, but I have my suspicions.
According to British Retail Consortium estimates, shop thefts have more than doubled in the past six years, reaching eight million nationally last year.
The cost to retailers is enormous.
So if Aldi wants to check my reusable bags are empty, staff will have no argument from me.
With the cost of living crisis impacting on my own household, anything which could ultimately bring down costs for honest customers gets my support.
Meanwhile – with our High Streets undergoing a period of change – if enhanced security measures help to keep retailers in town and stores open (particularly local businesses, owned and operated by people like you and me), it can only be a good thing.
Search my bags and watch me in shops all you like! I want to be able to go in a shop to physically see, touch and potentially try on my purchases, rather than do everything online.