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Woolworths launches digital gate to stop light-fingered shoppers

Both Coles and Woolworths have been introducing technological solutions to shoplifting. Photo: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths

Both Coles and Woolworths have been introducing technological solutions to shoplifting. Photo: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths Photo: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths

Supermarkets are using technology to curb shoplifting, with one Woolworths store in New South Wales trialling digital sensor and smart gate technology to stop shoppers from leaving without paying.

Customers at Fairfield will notice the gate at the exit of the self-serve checkout area as the technology is trialled “to help reduce stock loss and to keep customers and team safe”, a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“This is one of a number of initiatives, both covert and overt, to minimise instances of retail crime in store,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ll listen to feedback from our customers and team members over the coming months before assessing our next steps.”

During the trial, the sensors will be located in self-serve and express lanes only, and shoppers will be notified by signage in stores.

The trial started in Fairfield on Wednesday and will be expanded to Moorabbin, Millers Junction and Woodgrove in Victoria, and Wentworthville and Randwick Metro in New South Wales in the next month.

Increased retail theft

All retailers are experiencing an increase in retail crime and Woolworths is no exception, the spokesperson said.

“We continue to look at additional measures that will help reduce retail crime,” the spokesperson said.

“We do understand that most customers do the right thing at the checkout.”

Shoplifting has increased by almost 38 per cent in the past two years, returning to pre-COVID levels, according to the latest data available from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Stores already have CCTV cameras installed, but the gates and sensors don’t use cameras and do not save any personal information on shoppers.

Shoppers are assigned a digital ID when they enter the store, which allows them to exit through the gates if they paid at the checkout. Photo: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths

Sensors located on the roof of the store identify when someone enters and assigns the person a digital ID, which will automatically open when the customer approaches the gate if they have paid at the checkout.

Woolworths said customers will be unidentifiable throughout the whole process and the digital ID will be deleted as soon as they leave the store.

Security push

Coles uses the technology across certain stores, a spokesperson said, adding that smart gate technology is one of a range of security measures to reduce theft.

“Additionally, trolley lock technology has been in place at a number of our stores in recent years and this technology uses sensors to prevent trolleys leaving the store if someone hasn’t first paid at a register,” the spokesperson said.

“Some of these security measures are trials at this stage, and we are keen to hear what our customers think of the new technology before it is rolled out further.”

Coles has implemented its own “smart gate technology” at some stores. Photo: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths

According to the National Retail Association, retail crime — including shoplifting, robbery and vandalism — costs Australian businesses up to $9 billion each year, and only 20 per cent of retail crimes are reported to police.

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