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Retailers Test Anti-Theft Technology

Empty Shelves at grocery store

Retailers are turning to locked cases, AI-enabled cameras, receipt scanners, and more to deter theft and reduce shrink.

Canadian grocery chain Loblaw is testing receipt scanners at four of its locations. The technology requires self-checkout customers to scan their receipt’s barcode to open a metal gate positioned at the exit, according to CBC News.

Loblaw suggested that organized crime is driving much of the retail theft at grocery stores, according to the report.

"Organized retail crime across the entire industry is a serious issue, and has only gotten worse," said Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas. "We are working hard to balance a need for enhanced security while at the same time preserving a welcoming and convenient customer experience."

The grocery chain faced backlash by shoppers while testing the technology, with many noting how it inconveniences shoppers.

"You had some people, especially a lot of elderly folks, were completely unaware this was a new thing, and were just pushing their carts through the closed gate," said Ontario-based shopper Jonathan Hayes. "It would trigger alarms. There were alarms going off maybe every one to two minutes."

There is a fine balance between convenience and security that shoppers must attain to disincentivize shoplifting without turning away customers, reports Axios.

The report emphasized how many retailers across the U.S. are taking similar steps as Loblaw to deter theft. In Washington D.C., for example, Giant and Safeway supermarkets are installing security gates and checking customers’ receipts before they leave in addition to locking up more items.

On the other hand, retailers "know that locking up items does impact their sales," said David Johnston, VP of asset protection and retail operations at the National Retail Federation. He said that retailers don’t want to lock up merchandise because “they spend millions of dollars on displays and creating the shopping experience.”

Johnston added that retailers are “looking at various technologies that allow them the freedom of a positive shopping experience, with the control of inventory." Some of these technologies include advancements like the Freedom Case which allows shoppers to unlock the case without employee assistance by sharing their phone number or using the store’s loyalty app.

However, people may be wary of exchanging personal information for convenience, according to the report.