Boots removes ‘vital’ products from shelves to deter thieves amid rising shoplifting rates

Boots has been forced to take “vital” products off its shelves in a bid to deter gangs as Britain is gripped by soaring shoplifting rates.

Experts say the thieves have their eye on baby formula and other “hot products” to sell on to dodgy outlets in the UK or buyers abroad.

It was also suggested that shoplifters hope to mix the powder with drugs.

Boots’ store in Purley, South London, has taken products including Aptimil, which costs up to £19 a pack, off its shelves.

Customers now have to take paper photocopies to the counter to get their goods, under the new rules.

Emmeline Taylor, professor of criminology at City, University of London, told The Sun: “Some retailers are creating what I call ‘Fortress Stores’ in some of their hardest hit locations.

“Their tactics include dummy displays, locked cabinets, and more sophisticated tagging, as well as investing in staff training and more sophisticated guarding.”

Professor Taylor also suggested the cost-of-living crisis was contributing to an increase in shoplifting but stressed it is “naïve” to presume this is the main issue.

Last month, Boots demanded tougher action to combat shoplifting and violence against shop staff.

The retailer said: “To prevent theft, we often use security tags on products or remove items from shelves and replace with empty boxes or cut outs.

“The decision on which items to protect in this way is made at a store level and is based on what is most at risk of theft in that area.

“In some locations, baby formula is stolen with the intent to resell, so we take steps to protect our stock to ensure it is available for our customers when they need it.”

Project Pegasus, a collaborative scheme enforced by a number of retailers, estimated consumer shoplifting in 2023 rose by between 25% and 37% compared to last year.

The Centre for Retail Research said: “Thieves have become aware that retail crime is fairly risk free and that shopkeepers cannot detain a thief unless there is a good prospect that the police will turn up and make an arrest.

“The Co-op estimates that the police failed to respond to as many as 71% of their serious crime cases.

“The patterns of bad behaviour that originated during Covid and the sight of TV screens and online media of organised looting of stores in the US have made them realise that the same conditions apply in the UK.

“Retailers are responsible for the safety and welfare of their employees and do not want them to be harmed by contact with aggressive and often-violent shoplifters.”

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