UK consumers steal from self-serve checkouts finds research

4th December 2017

British consumers steal £3.2bn worth of items from supermarkets every year by deliberately misusing self-scan checkout technology, according to new research. The figure has more than doubled over the last three years.

Website first undertook its study into theft from service checkouts in 2014, discovering losses of £1.3bn. That has now increased, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of consumers polled admitting to stealing. On average, British shoppers steal £23 worth of products every month, £5 more than in 2014. Toiletries, fruit, and vegetables are the most commonly stolen items.

More than 2,500 consumers, all of whom have used self-service checkouts, took part in the study.  Those who had stolen items were asked why, and given the option to tick all the reasons that had applied to them. They said:

  1. The item wouldn’t scan or register – 62%
  2. I knew I could get away with it – 40%
  3. I forgot to scan an item – 36%
  4. I didn’t have enough money at the time – 18%
  5. I didn’t realise the item hadn’t scanned at the time – 11%

Of those who claimed they have never stolen anything via self-service checkouts, the majority (62%) confessed that they only haven’t tried to take anything without paying because they were worried about getting caught.  

The amounts stolen differed by region:

  1. North West – £33 (average monthly total of items stolen from a supermarket)
  2. South West - £31
  3. Scotland – £29
  4. Wales – £29
  5. Northern Ireland – £27
  6. London – £24
  7. Yorkshire & The Humber – £22
  8. South East – £18
  9. East Midlands – £17
  10. North East – £16
  11. West Midlands – £15
  12. East of England – £14

As in 2014, the team at used the results to estimate how much is stolen annually through self-service checkouts around the UK.                        

George Charles of says: “The amount stolen annually has skyrocketed since 2014, from £1.3 billion to over £3.2 billion. The economy may not be in top shape currently and money may be tight, but that is no excuse to start stealing your weekly shop instead of paying for it. Stores may want to reconsider just how many store assistants they have manning their self-service stations.”