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Atlantic Superstore defends use of plexiglass to prevent ‘organized crime.’ Shoppers unconvinced

Click to play video: 'Questions raised as Loblaw puts up barriers to prevent shoplifting'
Questions raised as Loblaw puts up barriers to prevent shoplifting
New plexiglass barriers at grocery stores in the Halifax area are raising questions about shoppers’ rights and fire safety. As Skye Bryden-Blom reports, they’re among the latest measures to be rolled out to prevent shoplifting – Apr 22, 2024

New measures aimed at preventing shoplifting at Loblaws-owned Atlantic Superstore locations are stirring debate in the Halifax area.

The grocery chain has been rolling out plexiglass barriers in stores — around the perimeter and the self-checkout areas — to help cut down on what it calls “organized crime.”

Atlantic Superstore has been installing barriers in areas including the self-checkout stations. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

However, the additional anti-theft measures have some left questioning the customer impact.

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“All I see right now is an industry that’s protecting itself without really trying to understand the client’s experience,” said Sylvain Charlebois, the director of Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytics Lab.

He argues grocers are compromising the shopping experience for the sake of theft prevention, but points out it’s also difficult to quantify the shoplifting losses.

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“They’ve never actually said, ‘This is how much money we’re losing due to loss prevention or due to theft,'” he said.

Global News spoke to several shoppers outside a Halifax store, whose reactions ranged from “it’s fine,” to asking “was that really necessary?”

All this comes as consumers across the country speak out against high grocery prices and rising company profits.

Canada’s grocers have been facing enhanced scrutiny as food inflation at many stores remains in the spotlight. Prices had risen by 4.7 per cent year over year in November 2023 before holding steady in December 2023.

There is even an online movement to boycott Loblaws stores in the month of May.

Click to play video: 'Will the proposed Loblaw boycott reap any rewards?'
Will the proposed Loblaw boycott reap any rewards?

Some customers have also been expressing safety concerns about the partitions, and whether it could pose a fire safety risk. That’s something Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency is looking into.

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“We’ve had our inspectors reach out to Superstore to confirm specifications on the plexiglass that has been installed to ensure they’re acceptable for flame-spread rating and smoke development rating,” acting division chief of fire prevention Larry Varin said.

‘Industry-wide way to prevent theft’

Loblaw public relations declined to answer if theft was on the rise, or provide data on the issue.

In a statement to Global News, it said “organized crime is a real problem” in the industry that affects “safety, security and wellbeing.”

“Using plexiglass partitions is a proven, industry-wide way to prevent theft and keep a positive, open-concept-style customer experience,” the statement continues.

“We’ve used them in locations across Canada for a number of years, and we’re rolling them out in various Loblaw-owned stores in Atlantic Canada. They are fully compliant with all safety and regulatory plans.”

Click to play video: 'Loblaw testing grocery receipt scanners. Can customers refuse?'
Loblaw testing grocery receipt scanners. Can customers refuse?

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