The cost of living across Europe has been declared a ‘ticking timebomb’ as consumers struggle to manage the mounting costs of food, housing, and fuel. Rising at the fastest rate for 40 years, food costs – particularly bread, cereal, and meat – have reached record levels putting ever-increasing pressure on consumers struggling to survive.

And, across the board, inflation is soaring. In Europe, the annual inflation rate was 8.1% in May 2022, up from 7.4% in April[i]. Just 12 months earlier, the rate was 2.0%. In Germany, inflation reached its highest level in almost 50 years, lifted by expensive energy and food and supply chain tensions. Meanwhile, consumer prices in the EU have jumped 7.9% in the last year and were 8.7% higher on an EU-harmonised basis[ii].

Cost of living rise impacting prices

The knock-on effect has quickly been noted as grocery prices soar. Food and beverage products have already increased their prices by an average of +14% since the beginning of 2021, with the strongest price increases found among everyday life products, including oils and fats (+53%), flours (28%) and pasta (+19%). In contrast, food retail prices have only adjusted by a modest +6%, meaning retailers have yet to forward even half of the higher prices onto food retail prices[iii].

As a result, industry research suggests that food inflation would cost the average European consumer an extra 243 EUR for the same basket of food products as it would in 2021, with a window of further increases – up to 500 EUR – in Europe’s four largest consumer markets[iv]. With costs on the rise, and consumers forced into more desperate circumstances, concerns are mounting over the impact this will have on shoplifting levels as historically, incidents of retail theft increase during times of crisis.

In fact, a recent Bloomberg report outlined that the “last time consumers were under severe strain – in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis, amid rampant job losses and spikes in prices for food and fuel – shoplifting surged[v].”

And, retail analysts have advised that organised theft levels are already on the rise, with the “temptation to shoplift likely to grow for some[vi]”. Far from a new phenomenon, such trends have been noted in previous times of austerity or economic downturn, making grim reading for retailers and a sad reflection of the challenges faced by communities across the globe.

Unfortunately, across the retail industry, store owners say that theft levels are already “off the charts so far this year[vii]”, demonstrating the urgent need to take action to prevent further losses. Early signs reveal how retailers are trying to limit the damages caused by retail losses, from one-way entry and exit points on aisles with high-value products to the increased use of security tags or lockable cabinets to help deter and detect shoplifting incidents.

And, while organised or practised shoplifters tend to target high-value goods they can sell on – such as alcohol, razors or electronics –  retailers have witnessed a notable increase in first-time shoplifters who are stealing everyday, low-value items. This unfortunate trend is driving stores to fit anti-theft devices on low-value, high-theft items such as butter and cheese[viii].


Protecting the bottom line with technology

For many retailers, EAS technology has helped them to protect their products – very successfully – for many years. Antennas placed at store entrances/exits, for example, alert retail associates when customers attempt to walk away with goods without paying for them. Not only do they provide advanced security but their very presence offers a strong deterrent to potential shoplifters. Advancements in EAS technology, however, means that retailers can now expect more than this and begin to factor the antennas into their store design and customer shopping experience strategies more than ever before.

The latest RF antennas – including Checkpoint’s NEO family – now come with increased detection ranges, some with a range as far as 2.7 metres. This means the wider aisles and entrances that were historically difficult to protect can now be secured. Innovative designs, such as the award-winning NS40, also allow retailers greater in-lane protection at the checkout. Not only does this add an extra layer of security, but by alerting staff to potential theft attempts earlier, the chance of the offender being stopped before they reach the exit increases significantly for those employing guards.


Protecting each and every product

However, EAS antennas are just one part of the security puzzle and would act solely as a placebo if it weren’t for the tags and labels attached to the products on shelf. Security labels, which can be affixed either in-store or at source, are extremely complex technological products, yet often go unnoticed by customers as they offer such discreet protection, with minimal visible impact on branding or packaging. However, there are also many other tags and labels available which provide much more visible, overt protection against theft at shelf-level. Checkpoint’s trademarked Black Lock logo range of labels, for example, is available in a range of different options to provide retailers with exactly this solution.


Offering excellent product protection, the Black Lock logo labels can be attached to any items and also include a range suitable for use on food products thanks to rigorous testing to ensure they comply with food safety regulations, and in a variety of shapes and sizes to compliment different packaging styles. With decades of experience in creating a wide range of security label options for different product categories, Checkpoint has the expertise and portfolio to offer the protection your products need.


Protection against organized crime

Organised Retail Crime (ORC) has long been a problem in the retail industry, however when wider economic factors begin to impact the population at large, it is one issue that unfortunately, tends to get worse. As the consequences of sky-high inflation start to hit home, more and more groups will be looking for ways to steal products by attempting to defeat in-store security measures.

In this instance, retailers need to ensure they are prepared whilst also still considering the shopping experience; customers don’t want to be deterred from entering a store and forbidden from touching products because they are inside locked cabinets. Consumers want to be able to touch, feel and engage with items before they decided whether to buy them.

Products from Checkpoint’s Alpha High Theft Solutions division – including Spider®’s, Keepers® and hard tags – provide proven product protection – without obscuring branding or damaging product packaging. Crucially they can also allow customers to handle the items freely ahead of making their purchasing decision. For store staff, they are easy to deploy and remove at the point of sale without impacting the customer experience or creating unnecessary work. This ever-evolving range of products provides a strong visual deterrent, helping dissuade shoppers with dishonest intentions.

In such challenging times, it’s vital that retailers can rely on trusted and proven solutions – tailored to suit all store sizes and layouts – to prevent and deter would-be shoplifters. With over 50 years experience partnering with our customers to offer solutions to protect products as well as profits, Checkpoint Systems provides a portfolio of proven theft deterrents. To understand more about any of the products or solutions mentioned above, get in touch with our team of experts today.