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Middle-class shoplifters contributing to surge in retail crime, says M&S chairman

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Middle-class shoplifters are partly to blame, as they are ‘tempted’ to steal items when self-checkouts fail to register the items, says Marks and Spencer chairman

Archie Norman, the chairman of Marks & Spencer said that shoplifting is “creeping in” among the middle class because of faulty self-checkouts.

He said that the surge is due to the well-off shoppers being “tempted” to walk out without paying for their items when self-checkouts failed to register their items properly.

The M&S chairman told LBC’s podcast Money with David Buik and Michael Wilson that shoplifting has become a “global problem”.

“It’s too easy to say it’s a cost of living problem. Some of this shoplifting is gangs. Then you get the middle class,” Mr Norman said.

“With the reduction of service you get in a lot of shops, a lot of people think: ‘This didn’t scan properly, or it’s very difficult to scan these things through and I shop here all the time. It’s not my fault, I’m owed it’.”

“You see it with the self-checkouts, there’s a little bit of that creeping in.”

Mr Norman confirmed that M&S were not “as attractive” for criminal gangs as they preferred to steal branded spirits and beauty products to sell them on eBay.

However, M&S sells more of its own brand products as compared to its rivals.

High-risk items like steaks, batteries, and razor blades are strategically placed in staff-monitored areas, while branded spirits and skincare products are not typically sold, he said.

Waitrose has trained its staff to spot people putting items as cheaper options when they scan them.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have tightened security at self-scan tills with the introduction of security gates, mandating shoppers to scan receipts before exiting the store.

M&S was taking this approach of adding barriers and more cameras were similar to turning shops into “prison camps”, Mr Norman confirmed.

He said: “Our approach is to be open and welcome. We do little things like make sure the steak is positioned in the right place so people can keep an eye on it.”

M&S has been investing in more self-checkouts and earlier this year vowed to push on with adding more of these tills to make its stores more efficient.

Earlier this month, the northern supermarket chain Booths axed all its self-service tills after receiving customer feedback.

“We believe colleagues serving customers deliver a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores,” the company said.

Retailers have complained that the police are failing to crack down on the increase in the surge of shoplifters, forcing them to take matters into their own hands.

Last month, Matt Hood, managing director of Co-op, expressed his disappointment with the approach towards the investigation.

He said: “The Home Office and NPCC say every crime will be investigated, which are great words, but actions are better and, frankly, yet to be seen, as our stores report serious crimes every single day, but in 71pc of cases, no police turn up.

“Co-op has invested over £200m to try and keep our colleagues and stores safe, so I am increasingly frustrated by how our efforts are not being matched by those who have the power to enforce consequences.”

Other retail stores have spent an extra £700m on security staff, CCTV, security tags and other anti-crime measures to try to tackle shoplifting, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Last month, the multiple partnered with the UK’s other 13 retailers and the Home Office to tackle “retail crime” at 10 Downing Street.

The initiative is known as “Operation Pegasus” which is chaired by Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp MP and led by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

Boots with other retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, and Waitrose have planned to fund a “team of specialist police officers and intelligence analysts”.

They have contributed £60,000 over two years, and the Home Office £30,000, to fund the new squad.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has warned that shoplifters attacking retail staff during the Christmas period will face the ‘full force of the law,’ following reports of over 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, violence, and abuse recorded in Co-op stores in the past year.

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