A view from the checkout: ‘baby milk is now security tagged’

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Shoppers are changing their behaviour as family budgets come under pressure from swingeing price rises on basic necessities, from milk and cooking oil to dog food. Jane Jones, who works in a supermarket in Flintshire, Wales, says cash-strapped customers are looking for ways to cut back.

“It’s completely different in the shop. There are some people that don’t have to worry about money but the average person is spending less and people are always complaining about prices at the checkout.

Some people know when [the store] puts out reductions. They come to the store at 8pm and you can see crowds of people at the reductions counter climbing over each other to get what’s cheap. When there is something in the aisles that is on offer, people buy what’s cheap that week and don’t have it the next.

There are definitely a number of things that never had security tags before but have got them now

We used to get shoplifters stealing high-value things to sell on, which is not uncommon. Now it’s people stealing everyday things, doing their weekly shop and trying to walk out without paying.

Baby milk has never been security tagged but now it is, so people can’t steal it. It was something that never would happen before but people are quite desperate.

There is a lot going [missing] through self-service: people not scanning everything is more prevalent than it was.

There are definitely a number of things that never had security tags before but have got them now.

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A lot of things have been removed off the shelves. We put cards out for things such as printer ink and you have to go and get it from a secure area.

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A lot of people do say “when you get to £40 can you stop”, and then we look at their offers to see if they can buy more. You can see them prioritising what they need at the front [of the conveyor belt].

There have always been people who shop like that, who only have a certain amount of money to spend. It is not a new thing but it is definitely happening more with people who didn’t generally bother before and were carefree and just buying what they needed or wanted. Now people are very cautious about cost.

The supermarket has value lines and [premium] lines and people tend to pick up more value brands now, which was something they seemed to be stopping doing a while ago.

We find lots of things left at the end of the checkout – people are thinking they shouldn’t have picked it up and changed their mind. It must be hard for them but we don’t make them feel bad. We are in the same boat, we understand as we are not in high-paid roles.

I try to shop smart. I spend a lot of time in the supermarket so I see the offers and buy fewer treats, such as the odd bottle of wine. You don’t plan meals around what you like but what you can afford to buy, what’s on Bogof (buy one, get one free) or reduced.

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Everything seems to have gone up in price a little bit. Some things, such as cat food, have gone up massively. When you are going around it’s maybe 5p here and 10p there but when you get to the checkout with 50 items in the trolley, that is a lot of money.”

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