Boots has been forced to take “vital” products off its shelves in a bid to deter gangs as Britain is gripped by soaring shoplifting rates.
Baby formula and other popular products were removed after experts warned thieves look to sell the items on dodgy outlets or to buyers abroad.
It was also suggested some shoplifters hope to mix the powder with drugs.
Boots’ store in Purley, South London, revealed products costing up to £19 were moved out of reach.
An image from outside a Boots’ Pharmacy
Customers instead have to take paper photocopies to the counter to purchase the goods.
Emmeline Taylor, professor of criminology at City, University of London, told The Sun: “Some retailers are creating what I call ‘Fortress Stores’ in some of their hardest hit locations.
“Their tactics include dummy displays, locked cabinets, and more sophisticated tagging, as well as investing in staff training and more sophisticated guarding.
Professor Taylor also suggested the cost-of-living crisis was contributing to an increase in shoplifting but stressed it is “naive” to presume this is the main issue.
Close up of closed circuit camera on the wall decorations
Boots has been demanding tougher action to combat shoplifters and violence against its workers.
The retailer said last month: “To prevent theft, we often use security tags on products or remove items from shelves and replace with empty boxes or cut outs.
“The decision on which items to protect in this way is made at a store level and is based on what is most at risk of theft in that area.
“In some locations, baby formula is stolen with the intent to resell, so we take steps to protect our stock to ensure it is available for our customers when they need it.”
Shoppers queue outside the Boots flagship store in Oxford Street, central London
Project Pegasus, a collaborative scheme enforced by a number of retailers, estimated consumer shoplifting in 2023 rose by between 25 per cent and 37 per cent compared to last year.
The Centre for Retail Research said: “Thieves have become aware that retail crime is fairly risk free and that shopkeepers cannot detain a thief unless there is a good prospect that the police will turn up and make an arrest.
“The Coop estimates that the police failed to respond to as many as 71 per cent of their serious crime cases.
“The patterns of bad behaviour that originated during Covid and the sight on TV screens and online media of organised looting of stors n the US have made them realise that the same conditions apply in the UK.
“Retailers are responsible for the safety and welfare of their emnployees and do not want them to be harmed by contact with agressive and often-violent shoplifters.”