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Industry NewsGrocers taking steps to combat shopping cart theft

Grocers taking steps to combat shopping cart theft

Grocers and retailers are taking significant steps to combat the persistent problem of shopping cart thefts, which often translates into substantial financial losses for businesses. Among other retailers, Walmart Canada has adopted a comprehensive approach, using measures such as a cart collection service to address the issue.

Felicia Fefer, manager of corporate affairs at Walmart Canada, discussed the importance of ensuring customers have access to shopping carts via email.

“Walmart Canada uses a variety of measures to ensure we have shopping carts readily available for customer use, including regularly corralling shopping carts in and beyond our parking lots. We know that some shopping carts are taken off store property, which is unfortunate and frustrating because it reduces the number of carts for our customers and causes issues in the community. To address this, we keep as many carts as possible inside our stores and in some markets we provide coin-operated carts to prevent our carts from being removed from our property. In many markets, we also contract a cart collection service to collect any stray carts to help keep the neighbourhood tidy,” said Fefer.

The escalating issue of shopping cart theft has recently garnered national attention, with the Food Marketing Institute highlighting the global cost to businesses at up to $800 million a year. In Canada, the price for a single stolen cart is estimated to be between $350-400, according to the Retail Council of Canada. Furthermore, according to the National Supermarket Research Group, shopping cart theft and vandalism losses amount to several hundred million dollars yearly. According to other studies, a store may have to replace up to 35 per cent of its fleet of carts annually.

Several factors contribute to the rise in cart thefts, including homeless individuals repurposing them for shelter or storage and instances of theft for scrap metal. Municipalities are responding by imposing fees on retailers for retrieval services and fines for individuals caught stealing carts, prompting companies to seek innovative solutions.

To counter, retailers are adopting various strategies to neutralize theft, including self-locking wheels, artificial intelligence, electronic tagging systems, video surveillance, security guards, and anti-theft signs.

Canadian companies finding solutions to cart theft

InStore Products Limited, for example, has developed a cart tracking system utilizing GPS technology to locate lost carts. The company says various containment systems, such as wheel locks, coin locks, and electronic systems, are valid but may only partially prevent theft.

To tackle the challenge, InStore Products Limited installs a discreet GPS tracker on each shopping cart. The tracker allows not only the retrieval of stolen carts but also provides comprehensive data for store management. The system establishes a geofence around the store, enabling real-time tracking of carts within the specified area. The dashboard offers information on the number of carts on-site, in use, in maintenance, or off-site, aiding store operators in optimizing their cart fleet. Additionally, the system assists in managing maintenance schedules, tracking usage patterns, and even identifying locations where carts are frequently abandoned, such as residences or condos. The technology is beneficial in preventing theft, enhancing operational efficiency, and reducing costs related to cart retrieval.

“Our solution involves establishing a geofence around the store, allowing us to track everything within that boundary. It enables both customers and store managers to monitor carts during preparation, their departure from the property, locations around the property, and all checkpoints they pass,” said Steve Brown, executive vice president at InStore Products Limited.

Working with several grocery stores and retailers, InStore Products Limited says it has received positive feedback on the effectiveness of its cart tracking system. Brown noted a franchisee client’s substantial reduction in cart losses and operational hassles following implementation. The success of the technology even eliminated the need for the franchisee’s usual annual reorder list of 50 to 100 carts, he said.

In an interview, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said there was difficulty in obtaining an accurate assessment of the impact of theft on local businesses due to underreporting. The RCC says it is actively collaborating with law enforcement, the justice system, and the government to address this issue. They are also assisting retailers in implementing loss prevention and de-escalation strategies.

“At the end of the day, it’s important to stress that theft is often thought of as a victimless crime, but it’s not. It costs Canadian retailers billions of dollars a year — costs that are borne by all consumers when they go shopping,” said Michelle Wasylyshen, national spokeswoman at RCC.

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