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Co-op puts empty coffee jars on shelves to prevent shoplifting after price hike to £10.50

A local Co-op in north-east London has resorted to putting empty coffee jars on shelves in an apparent bid to dissuade shoplifters – after the price went up to more than £10.

A branch in Walthamstow took the precaution after the price of 200g of Kenco Smooth instant coffee was put up to £10.50, while a similar-size container of Nescafe Gold Blend was removed after being put on sale for £9.35.

In an apparent bid to stop consumers from walking out with what is now a high-cost item, “display only” coffee jars were put on shelves with notes bearing the message: “This product is a dummy, not for sale, please ask a member of staff for help.”

Co-op, which operates a franchise model, said it was up to the individual store to decide whether to remove products from the shelves where there is a risk of theft.

A Co-op spokesperson said: “Protecting the safety of our colleagues is a priority and we know shoplifting can be a flashpoint for violence against shopworkers, so whilst this is not a nationwide policy, a store can decide to implement product security measures at a local level, if they are experiencing a particular issue.”

Walthamstow locals suggested that the inflation-busting price rise and precautions over a staple good were a “sign of the times”.

One said that £10 is “a ridiculous price for instant coffee” – while others said the need for security measures was “heartbreaking” as people struggle to pay for basics.

ONS figures suggest that the average cost of instant coffee has risen by 13 per cent over the last year – with the rise outstripping inflation and average pay increases. Coffee pods saw an even steeper rise of 20 per cent.

Sue Higgins, 59, said it was “tragic” that people had been left with no option but to steal coffee because the prices have risen so much.

After sharing a photo of the empty jars on Facebook, she told i: “Sometimes I’m drinking tea instead of coffee now myself because it’s cheaper. I did think the price was quite expensive… obviously, people are stealing the coffee, which is just unprecedented.

“It struck me how it reflected the times that we’re living in, that this is how desperate people are. I’ve never shoplifted but I can understand how people feel. It’s such a comfort to have a nice cup of coffee, and it’s very sad.

“I asked about it at the checkout and they said that they’ve had to take they’ve had to take the measures with baby formula and with medicine as well. It’s very sad.”

The Government recently encouraged supermarkets to impose voluntary price caps on food staples to help with the cost of living – but is facing a backlash from retailers.

Downing Street is understood to be drawing up proposals to advocate for charging the lowest possible amount for some basic products like bread and milk.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC), representing retailers, said the measures would not make a “jot of difference” to pricing and warned they could thwart efforts to cut inflation.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “Rather than recreating 1970s-style price controls, the Government should focus on cutting red tape so that resources can be directed to keeping prices as low as possible.”

Overall consumer prices rose by 8.7 per cent in the year to April, according to the Consumer Prices Index – but food inflation remains very high at 19.1 per cent.

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